How you can protect your privacy online, SBS News

As Facebook falls under scrutiny for its role in data-harvesting, experts say Australians might also be at risk of having their online privacy breached.

Experts have warned Australians to be cautious of their online security, amid the controversy surrounding Facebook’s data-harvesting scandal.

US political consultant Cambridge Analytica was suspended from the social media company last week after it emerged 50 million users’ data had not been destroyed as agreed.

Facebook is yet to reveal whether Australians were among those affected.

But the National Justice Project’s George Newhouse said Australians have reason to be concerned about how their personal information is being accessed.

“Australians are affected by the taking of their data and the use of their data every day… We have the right to know what information is being kept on us and we have the right to demand that it be deleted or corrected,” Mr Newhouse said.

The case has renewed calls for tougher privacy laws in Australia, including the “right to be forgotten” concept adopted in Europe.

Attorney General Christian Porter said the federal government is not considering any alterations to the Privacy Act at this time.

But a social media movement calling for users to delete Facebook is gaining traction.

While deleting social media accounts is one way to protect online privacy, there are alternative solutions.

Experts advise reviewing privacy settings regularly, turning off location services and even entering a different birth date.

Tom Uren from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, gave SBS News some tips.

“Using good passwords on sites, being mindful of exactly what you’re giving up when you give out information and being cautious about what you post online,” he said.

But Professor Vladan Joler, from the University of Novi Sad,  told SBS’ Serbian language program that Australians also need to understand the internet in order to protect themselves.

“We should try to find a way to make those systems more transparent. Because if they’re not transparent, in a way, we would not be able to understand what are the threats.”

“And we would not be able to understand what are the main business models behind the internet if we don’t understand what is going on within those black boxes such as Facebook and Google.”

Professor Joler said he was hopeful the current business model will change, so that everyone can access the internet without being concerned for their privacy.

“We can use different tools to anonymise our online behaviour to browse the internet more securely… But it’s really sad that we need to make a lot of efforts for that and that we need to always be in a fight for something that is basically our basic right.”

Some tips to protect your privacy and identity online

– Use strong passwords and don’t share them with anyone. Ideally use a random combination of numbers, letters and punctuation over eight characters long. Learn more about using strong passwords.

– Use a separate email address for shopping, discussion groups and newsletters. If you need to, you can then change this address without disrupting online business activities.

– Only share your primary email address with people you know.

– Adjust your privacy settings on social networks to control the amount and type of information you want to share.


(First published on SBS News on March 23)

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