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2 May, 2012

Australian Privacy Awareness Week Helps Young People Ward Off Online Threats


1 May 2012, (Office of the Australian Information Commissioner) – Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim has today reminded young people to make good privacy choices to ensure that their social networking behaviour does not come back to bite them in the future.

“I am worried about the level of personal information that young people are willing to share when social networking,” Mr Pilgrim said.

“While the effects might not be immediate, young people face the great risk that they are leaving behind a large digital history without fully understanding where this personal information might be used or where it may end up in the future.”

As part of Privacy Awareness Week 2012, Mr Pilgrim participated in an online session of Cybersmart Detectives—an initiative of the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA). Mr Pilgrim worked with a group of students online in real time to solve an internet problem that involves privacy issues. The aim of the program is to teach children key internet safety messages in a protected environment.

“Setting up web pages, blogging, tweeting, posting messages on Facebook or using instant messaging is reality for young people. It’s as real a world for them as talking face to face is – and it’s a world full of excitement and opportunity,” Mr Pilgrim said.

“But risks exist for children and young people online just as they do in the physical world – with some new twists and challenges. The information that we put online about ourselves is open not only to friends and family but to bullies, predators, identity thieves and fraudsters.

“Also, anyone can put anything on the internet – they can tell lies about you, post embarrassing photographs or facts, or harass you because of your opinions or actions. Once an individual’s information is posted on the internet, they can lose control over who can access it and any potential misuse of the information,” Mr Pilgrim said.

Privacy authorities in the Asia Pacific region are increasingly working together on topics of common concern. The latest example is a list of guidance materials available for children, young people, parents and teachers in the region which the privacy authorities have produced as part of Privacy Awareness Week (29 April – 5 May 2012).

“There’s lots of advice out there about online privacy for young people, parents and teachers, but sometimes it’s hard to find what you need, when you need it. So to help you, the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities have put together a list of useful resources for young people from across the Asia Pacific region,” Mr Pilgrim said.

The list is available online on the Privacy Awareness Week website in five languages and includes games, quizzes, fact sheets, videos and other materials about young people and privacy.

“Among the resources is a fun YouTube animation How private is your profile? Which reminds us why it pays to limit what we share online. We have also developed some top tips to help young people protect their privacy when using social networking sites,” Mr Pilgrim said.

“Young people need to understand that what they post today could come back to bite them in the future. Young people have privacy rights, and they need to know how to exercise them in the online world. This is one of my priorities during Privacy Awareness Week 2012,” he said.