Online privacy protection more important than ever

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Research released this week by Apia found Aussies are taking risks with their online activities, with those aged 65 years and over less likely to regularly check and update their privacy settings than their younger counterparts.

These alarming stats come to light at a time when COVID-19 restrictions have seen Aussies of all ages jump online to stay connected and entertained while locked down.

“Our research shows Aussies in general are pretty conscious about who they connect with online, with more than three in five knowing all of their friends and followers on social media,” said Head of Apia, Geoff Keogh.

“However, when it comes to regularly checking their privacy settings, those aged 65 years and over are putting themselves at risk, with 22 per cent admitting to never checking their privacy settings and only two in five regularly checking, meaning their posts could be visible to everyone on the internet.”

With many older Australians embracing technology not only for communication, but to also keep track of their finances, research and learn new skills, assist with medical needs and participate in social activities,  online security is a real concern for those companies who engage with seniors online – like Apia and partner Five Good Friends (FGF), an innovative in-home care provider.

Since COVID-19 lockdowns came into effect in early 2020, FGF has seen a huge shift in the number of seniors going online.

“During recent months, the importance of technology for seniors has really come to the forefront – with many now acknowledging the role it plays in acting as a support service, and ‘life-line’ by improving quality of life and keeping people connected,” said FGF co-founder and chief Simon Lockyer. 

“It’s become even more apparent that online security – and protecting your privacy – is crucial, but unfortunately it is something not everyone knows about, or knows how to manage.”

Queenslander Margaret, 91, and her daughter Jen are two of FGF’s clients. They engaged the business to help set Margaret up online so she could benefit from technology while in lockdown.

“Mum had some help from FGF to set up some of her apps so she could stay connected with friends and family during lockdown,” said Jen.

“Knowing that those apps were set up safely, and Mum’s privacy was protected was really important for her and us. It gave us peace of mind to know that she couldn’t become a target, but also that she’d be able to chat with us whenever she wanted.”

Mr Keogh said, especially in current times, ensuring older Australians remain connected to loved ones and their community is incredibly important – but safety should always come first, even online.

Apia’s top tips for online safety

  • Use strong and unique passwords. A combination of letters (lower and uppercase), numbers and symbols is a great way to protect yourself.
  • Check your privacy settings regularly. Most online services have settings that let you control who can see what you post. Before posting anything, it is good practice to get to know the privacy policies and settings and check them regularly.
  • Think before your post. Be aware that when you post anything online, you may be inadvertently sharing personal details about yourself and family members.
  • Not sure? Don’t open or click. Opening emails from unknown sources or clicking on links is often how cyber criminals get access to your personal information. If it doesn’t look right, you don’t know who it’s from, or you don’t know where it’s taking you, don’t open or click on it.
  • Know your friends. You don’t have to accept all friend requests/connections. Be selective of who you connect with online. For your own safety and security, limit your connections to people you already know.
  • Ask for help. If you’re unsure about setting up a social media profile, or want a refresher in checking your privacy settings, ask a trusted friend or family member for assistance. There are also several organisations – like Apia and FGF – who can provide additional online support.

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