Keep privacy in mind when you share online

May 5, 2021

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all spending increased amounts of time online, and for the past 12 months a huge part of our social lives in particular has existed in the virtual space. While it is important that we all stay connected, it is just as important that we are keeping privacy in mind when we are sharing information online.

If you don’t take steps to protect your personal information whilst using social media, the status updates, stories, photos and videos that you post can expose a great deal of personal information about you to the wider public. That personal information may be exploited by businesses for marketing purposes, and may also be used to access your secure accounts, steal your identity or otherwise cause you harm.

It is also important to remember that what you share online may be permanently recorded. Even if you delete a particular social media account, that account may still be maintained in the archives of the website, and your information may remain in the comments that you have posted on the accounts of others.

There are fortunately a number of simple steps that you can take to help keep privacy front of mind and your personal information safe when you are sharing online. These include:

  • Checking the privacy policies of the social media channels you’re using and selecting the privacy settings that best protect your personal information. Whilst it will depend on the particular social media platform, often you are able to (at the very least) limit the amount of people who have access to your contact details via the site, control who can make requests to connect with you, and set your accounts to private.
  • Getting to know your rights under the Privacy Act. Provided that the social media or other site through which you are sharing your personal information has an annual turnover of more than $3 million and operates in Australia, it is likely that it is covered by, and must comply with, the Australian Privacy Act. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) recommends that if you have a complaint about how a social media site has used your personal information, you should first contact that site directly. Failing a satisfactory response, you can make a complaint through the OAIC.
  • Make conscious and informed decisions about what you share publicly and what you share with those whom you know and trust. You should assume that what you share online will be there forever and will be accessible by the general public. Sharing too much information may pose a serious risk to your privacy and reputation, so think twice before you share and take a moment to look back at what you’ve shared in the past. There may be something there that you should delete or set to private.

For more information on how to safely share online head to https://www.oaic.gov.au/