Protecting personal information

By  eSafety Commissioner     |    Updated: 27th April, 2017    |    4 min read

Personal information is any information or combination of information that enables an individual to be identified.

Personal information is used by many businesses for legitimate communication. However this is not always the case and some personal information can be misused by criminals or inappropriately by marketers.

What is my personal information?

Your personal information may include your:

  • full name
  • address
  • phone numbers
  • school
  • date of birth
  • email address
  • username and password
  • bank details.

Disclosing personal information online

Many online services require users to provide some personal information in order to use their service. Prior to providing personal information, you should think about what can be done with your personal information and assess whether you are still happy to pass on these details. In addition to inappropriate or illegal use of information, disclosing personal information online can impact your digital reputation.

There are several online activities that you should be aware of that may require a level of disclosure of personal information. These include:

  • Shopping: to verify the identity of the purchaser, to process payments or for the delivery of goods.
  • Subscribing or registering: a screen name or ID and an email address are often minimum requirements but other requested information may include: age, gender, address, photo and personal likes or dislikes (a red asterisk (*) generally identifies mandatory fields that are needed to register).
  • Competitions, prizes and rewards: often require users to provide extensive personal data, including personal interests and demographic details—these are often used by marketers to promote products and services.
  • Online games and virtual worlds: these may require users to register before they can begin to play.

What might happen if I share my personal information online?

Spam, scams, identity theft and fraud are just some of the more serious issues that you might face if you are sharing personal information online.

How can I protect my personal information

It’s important to understand how personal information is used online and how to protect your information and digital reputation.

The following tips are a great basis for protecting your personal information online:

    • Only disclose financial information on secure websites. Look for an address beginning with https:// and a ‘locked’ padlock symbol in the bottom of the screen, which indicates that data is being encrypted.
    • If in doubt about the legitimacy of a website, call the organisation it claims to represent. The SCAMwatch website provides further advice on how to identify and report potential scams.
    • Banking institutions will never email individuals asking for their user name or password. If you receive an email by an organisation claiming to represent a banking institution report the email to the bank and SCAMwatch. Do not respond and do not click on any links provided.
    • Read user agreements and privacy policies. Many organisations use information for marketing purposes and may sell it to other marketing firms. If information is posted on websites that do sell information to marketers, individuals may receive promotional spam emails which can be difficult to stop.
    • Reduce spam by protecting your details. Spam can be reduced by:
      • limiting disclosure of email addresses and mobile numbers
      • installing and using spam filtering software
      • checking the terms and conditions when purchasing products, entering competitions or registering for services or email newsletters
      • not allowing contact details to be used for marketing purposes (making sure you check the opt out box)
      • boosting online security to limit spam.
    • Understand that information shared online can be permanent—users may not have control over who sees or accesses their personal information. This includes teachers, parents and prospective employers.
    • Select passwords carefully. When creating passwords there are some definite dos and don’ts, these include:


  • make it at least eight characters in length
  • combine letters, numbers and upper and lower-case letters
  • change your password regularly.
  • use pet names, birthdates, family or friends’ names
  • share passwords with others, even with friends
  • store them on the device.

© Commonwealth of Australia 2017. Published by the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner and freely available at: https://tuneinnotout.com/factsheets/digital-reputation/. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives 2.5 Australia Licence

Also check the related topics:  

Staying safe online

Factsheet provided by eSafety Commissioner


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