2. Online privacy concerns

What is privacy?

Privacy is a concept which is difficult to define exactly but we intuitively know when it is being threatened or breached. In a digital context, it might be about:

  • knowing what is happening to your information, such as where it is stored and how it is being used
  • exerting control over your information — to remove it from the internet altogether, or controlling who can view it
  • having the ability to block threats to your privacy by controlling what information you provide in the first place
  • controlling who can contact you and for what purpose.

Is there a privacy crisis?

Decorative“If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold”

  Andrew Lewis

Helped along by a series of widely reported events, internet users are becoming more aware of the threats that online life can pose to their privacy:

The majority of Australians are concerned about online privacy according to the Australian Community Attitudes to Privacy Survey 2020. Even though we are concerned, few of us take action to protect our privacy. How about you?

Gathering our data

Governments, organisations and businesses collect data from us. Data can be used ethically for research and service improvement, such as for travel and land-use, or to solve social and environmental problems. It can also be used unethically for profit.

Personal information requests

Businesses or organisations often request our personal details when we sign up or download their software or tools.

Customer loyalty schemes

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) warns us to be careful when signing up to customer loyalty schemes. These programs often request personal information. It is possible that they can combine this with information gathered from your social media or web browsing to build a detailed profile about you.

Apps and software

Often when you install an app, it will ask you for access to information on your device, for example, your contacts list, address book, your camera or your photos. The app might also ask to turn on location services.

Try to download from reputable sources and check reviews to verify the safety of an app you wish to use. Try to limit the access and information you provide.

The Protect your privacy section has more information on steps you can take for personal information requests and installing apps.

Privacy laws

Jurisdictions respond to threats and concerns in varying ways.

Privacy Act

The Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) regulates how Australian government bodies, as well as some non-government organisations, must treat your personal information. The Privacy Act categorises certain personal information as “sensitive information” and stipulates that organisations provide a greater level of protection. Examples of ‘sensitive information’ include:

  • religious or political affiliation
  • sexual preference
  • race.

The Act also outlines what should happen if an organisation’s data is breached and when the organisation has to notify you.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

In 2018, the European Union passed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), perhaps the most comprehensive privacy legislation to date.

Privacy at Charles Sturt University

The Charles Sturt Privacy Management Plan specifies that the University must collect, store, provide access to, use and disclose personal information in accordance with the Privacy and Personal Information Act 1998.


Source: Luncheon Meat LOL GIF
In Australia, the Spam Act 2003 (Cth) prohibits organisations from sending spam.
Spam is defined as the sending of unsolicited messages without your consent. You can consent to commercial messages by providing your contact information by filling out a form, over the phone, or during face-to-face communication. Even if you have provided consent, all messages must include a unsubscribe facility.


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Digital Skills: Security and Safety Copyright © 2023 by Charles Sturt University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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