Online tracking

Browser cookies can reveal your online habits, so how do you protect yourself?
 
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02.Protecting your privacy

In Australia, the Privacy Act outlines 10 national privacy principles. These principles don’t specifically address electronic privacy and internet-related personal information, but are intended to cover the collection of personal information via websites.

  • Personal information should only be collected if it is necessary for one or more of its functions or activities and it should not be done in a way that is intrusive or unfair.
  • If an individual has not consented, organisations must not use or disclose personal information for any reason other than the primary purpose of collection.
  • Adequate protections are in place to secure any personal information collected.
  • Organisations must have a clearly expressed privacy policy which addresses the collection, use and disclosure of personal information - this includes information gathered by their websites using cookies.

The European Union drafted a specific directive to member countries to protect the privacy and personal data of internet users in relation to cookies and other tracking and monitoring applications. The directive is intended to be drafted into the countries' local laws and countries are on a timeline for compliance.

The directive prohibits storing and using information of internet users without consent. It doesn’t outlaw the use of cookies because it acknowledges they serve a useful purpose in websites, but it does say that users must have clear and precise information about the way cookies and other technologies are used on sites. It ensures that users are asked for their consent and given the right to refuse the use of cookies.

If you visit a site published in the EU, it may have a small banner at the top of the homepage that explains the cookie policy with links to more details on how cookies are used on the site. Some sites provide detailed information on the cookies that are used on the site. Australia has a long way to go to meet these sorts of protection measures. In the US, they are considering a Do Not Track law that givers users the right to opt out of online tracking.

 

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