10 tips to protect your privacy online

In today’s data-driven world of the internet, your information is worth big bucks to businesses.

You might be surprised, even shocked, to know how much information is gathered about you as you surf around from site to site, reading this and clicking that.

To highlight the importance of protecting personal information, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) will run its annual “Privacy Awareness Week” campaign from the 2nd to the 8th of May.

The campaign aims to educate both individuals and businesses on establishing good privacy habits to ensure that personal information is protected.

To help you limit the personal information you share, here are ten simple steps the OAIC recommends to protect your privacy online.

1. Understand the value of your personal information

Your personal information often reveals who you are, what interests you, and what you believe in. This information is valuable to you and others. You should treat it as such and protect it where possible.

This might include only sharing what is necessary to manage an account or even using an alias for certain online activities.

2. Protect your online accounts

Many online services now offer additional account protection such as two-factor authentication.

This enhanced security feature requires you to enter a code you receive via email or text, before gaining access to your account.

Take the time to set this up if it’s an option, and start using easy-to-remember passphrases instead of passwords.

Passphrases are a combination of words, numbers, and characters that you can string together to substantially increase the difficulty of computers guessing them while making it easy for you to remember.

An example of a passphrase might be, aBlackCat8aMouse!

3. Read and understand privacy policies

Reading the privacy policy of businesses and websites you visit can help you understand how they will use and possibly share your information with third parties.

You should only share your information if you are comfortable with how it will be stored, used, and shared by all parties involved.

4. Check who you are sharing with

Before sharing your personal information, take the time to learn more about the person or company that’s requesting it.

If they don’t provide any contact information or it seems a bit strange they require certain information to provide their service, don’t risk it.

5. Think before sharing everything

Social networks make it very easy to share your life online. Set boundaries for yourself between what you post and to whom you give access.

You should also consider setting your social profiles to private so that only the people you trust can gain access to your information.

A lot can be learned about a person from social networks, and it’s easier than you might think to gather information.

6. Update your privacy settings

In some cases, your information is shared by default by the websites, mobile apps, and devices you use regularly.

Take the time when you first set them up to discover and configure the privacy settings which are sometimes not in plain sight when you access the top-level menu.

You might be surprised to find that the “Share usage and statistical data” checkboxes are already pre-checked, and your data is constantly being sent (somewhere) without your knowledge.

One bonus of disabling these features is that you will reduce the amount of data your device consumes.

This is helpful for those on a limited data plan, or those wanting to extend their mobile device’s battery life.

7. Clean up your digital crumbs

When you “visit a website”, you’re not actually going anywhere. What you are doing is downloading the web page to your device.

This download includes files used to style the page, images you may not even have looked at, and tiny text files called “cookies”.

Cookies are stored by your web browser and contain information about your visit and what you did when you were ‘there’.

For example, when you log in to a website, a session cookie is stored by your browser containing information that identifies you as being logged in, and to which account.

Clear your browser cookies and refresh the page and you will find that you are no longer logged in to the website.

Cookies can store more than just log in details though. They are often used to store and share information about the websites you visit, the products you viewed, and the things you clicked on.

If you’ve ever viewed a product then several days later seen adverts for that same product on other websites, you’ve experienced a remarketing cookie.

Cookies can be stored for different lengths of time and may collect data about not just one website visit, but all of the websites you visit over an extended period.

To reduce the information that’s collected about your online browsing adventures, learn how to clean up your digital crumbs by clearing your browser’s cookies.

8. Talk to your friends and family about privacy

Talk about protecting personal information and privacy with your friends and family.

Children are especially vulnerable to sharing personal information. While they may seem like masters of the apps they are using, they often don’t realise how the technology works behind the scenes.

This is why it’s essential to help them understand how important their privacy is, and that what they share online will likely be online forever.

9. Update your digital devices

Apart from providing additional features, software updates for your digital devices often include coding patches that address areas of code that may be exploited by computer hackers.

Keeping your device up to date and taking regular backups can prevent unauthorised access to your information, and help you recover your personal information if something goes wrong.

10. Take action if you think something is wrong

Unfortunately, regardless of the efforts to protect personal information, there are people around the world working day and night to exploit even the toughest of security systems.

In the event something does go wrong, take action quickly to manage and reduce your risk of harm.

This might include changing your passwords or passphrases, being vigilant and aware of scams that are circulating, and monitoring your user accounts for unauthorised activity.

And if you discover something wrong, notify the people in charge of the system or software that’s been affected.


How you manage and share your personal information can make a huge difference to how you are affected if a breach of your information occurs.

Following the ten steps listed above can greatly improve your privacy online and prevent you from falling prey to a scam or fraudulent activity.