The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) is taking the opportunity to remind Australians about the importance of mobile phone data privacy as we begin a new year.

Our day-to-day activities on our mobile phones leaves a trail of data from payment details and location information through map apps, to browsing data and login information.

Nearly 9 out of 10 Australians own a smartphone (Deloitte 2017), so it’s important that Australians take the time to understand how their personal information is collected, stored and used on their mobile phone.

To help Australians take control of their data privacy when using their mobile devices, AMTA has the following simple tips:

Download apps from reputable sources

Apps enhance our daily lives by improving our access to information and making tasks, like online banking and socialising, more convenient. When looking at downloading apps from your operating system app store, make sure you are downloading them from a reliable source. While most apps are generally safe and secure to use, some unreliable apps are designed to access your personal information, others’ contact information, passwords, or bombard you with advertisements that can contain viruses and malware. When looking at an app you are thinking of downloading, look specifically at the app developer. Many of them will have websites you can quickly research before downloading to make sure you are getting a secure app.

Be aware of your app permissions

App permissions are the privileges an app has, like having access to your phone’s camera, location or your contact list. It can be tricky deciding which apps should have access to what. All the apps you have ask your permission to access your data because they need it for one function or another. But not every app needs access permissions for everything, like a music app requesting permission to your location. Be wary of apps that request access to data that isn’t relevant to its function. While granting access to certain apps, carefully consider whether the app actually needs to do whatever it’s asking.

 Create strong passwords

Your passwords allow access to personal information we often store on our phone. Unique passwords shouldn’t include any personal information such as your name or date of birth. If you’re being specifically targeted for a password hack, the hacker will put everything they know about you in their guess attempts. Creating strong passwords to open your phone and for certain apps that contain sensitive information, as well as adding two-step authentications, can assist in protecting your privacy. If your passwords were part of a breach, you must change the password on all of the services that password is linked to.

Check your browser for the lock symbol

When browsing the internet on your mobile device the browser address bar indicates if you are on a secure connection. If you see a small padlock icon in the address bar, then the page is protected by a digital certificate. Websites with no security will not have this lock symbol. Check for the lock symbol when entering personal data such as your address or payment information or sending emails from your mobile browser to make sure that you are on a secure site.

Keep software up to date

Making time to update your mobile phone operating system and apps can assist with keeping your data safe. Many software and app providers release free updates for their products to correct security concerns and improve functionality. Updating your operating system and apps as soon as updates become available can keep you ahead of hackers and the latest attacks. Also, make sure all update processes are automated to keep receiving updates and keep your data secure.

Erasing personal data on second-hand phones

Before selling, giving away or trading in a phone that you no longer use, make sure that your data is completely erased by using your phone’s ‘Erase all Content and Settings’ or ‘Factory Reset’ features. Using this feature will remove all your personal data from your device (including messages, contacts, photographs, browsing history, Wi-Fi codes, passwords, and any apps you’ve installed), so make sure you have a backup of all the data that you want to keep.  If you have any questions or need any additional help with this, you should contact your mobile network carrier.