Is it illegal to share private text messages in Australia?

"Privacy is not something that I'm merely entitled to, it's an absolute prerequisite." — Marlon Brando (Actor & Activist)

In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, private conversations can be quickly tapped, swiped, and sent across the globe. This raises critical questions about our rights to privacy and the legality of sharing personal exchanges. So, let’s dive right into a question that’s on many minds: Is it illegal to share private text messages in Australia? 

In this blog post, we will venture into the depths of the Australian legal framework to unravel this conundrum.

Digital Privacy: A New Age Concern

With the evolution of technology, text messaging isn’t just a communication mode; it’s a record of personal sentiments, shared secrets, and confidential information. As breaches of digital privacy gain prominence globally, understanding Australia’s viewpoint on the dissemination of private text exchanges becomes increasingly crucial. The sanctity of digital data, especially intimate conversations, remains at the forefront of this debate.

Additionally, since the pandemic era, there has been an almost doubling in the number of young Australians falling victim to ‘revenge porn’ — there have been more than 1,000 incidents of image-based sexual abuse in the first three months of 2022, according to new statistics from the eSafety Commissioner, up by about 400 from the year before. These alarming figures reported in an article on Yahoo News Australia, only further reiterate the need for a conversation surrounding Australia’s privacy laws.

Decoding Australia’s Privacy Laws

The foundational stone of privacy in Australia is undoubtedly the Privacy Act of 1988. Initially designed to oversee organisations’ handling of personal data, its coverage of personal text exchanges remains ambiguous. But the legal tapestry is vast and interwoven.

Under the Invasion of Privacy Act 1971 (Qld), a person is not permitted to use a listening device (which would include any recording device) to overhear, record, monitor, or listen to private conversations to which they are not a party unless they have the consent of all principal parties to the conversation.

Depending on the nature and intent of sharing, several other laws can come into the spotlight. For instance, a text containing creative content might find shelter under Australian copyright laws, while maliciously shared messages with false information can usher in defamation concerns. It’s vital to remember that, while text messages might seem informal, their content can have profound legal implications.

Consent: The Centrepiece of the Debate

In the realm of communication, the power of consent cannot be understated. Sharing texts without a nod from the sender not only potentially violates their privacy rights but can also enter murky legal waters. While the specifics of text messages remain somewhat unchartered in Australian legislation, the overarching theme of consent and its importance is unwavering, irrespective of the platform. 

The Aftermath of Unauthorised Sharing

Sharing texts without consent isn’t merely a potential legal minefield; it’s a profound breach of personal boundaries. The ripple effects of such actions can be vast. Socially, trust can be shattered, and relationships, both personal and professional, can suffer. In professional spheres, such indiscretions might lead to allegations of misconduct, creating workplace unrest. From a legal perspective, the implications can range from fines to more severe consequences, especially if sharing results in tangible harm.

 Follow this link to find out what you can do in the event that your privacy has been breached on an online platform.

Digital Respect: Why It's Our Business

The digital realm, with all its conveniences, also calls for renewed understanding and practice of respect. Every online interaction, whether it’s a casual message or a confidential note, demands discretion. The golden rule remains unchanged: If in doubt, seek permission. By championing a culture rooted in digital etiquette, integrity, and understanding, we can pave the way for safer, more respectful online ecosystems.


Addressing the question, “Is it illegal to share private text messages in Australia?”, demands a multi-faceted approach. While Australian legal guidelines provide some clarity, the scenario is both complex and nuanced. As digital citizens, it’s our prerogative to not just understand the legal boundaries but to also recognise and uphold the ethical responsibilities that come with it. In the sprawling expanse of the digital universe, one principle remains timeless: respect for personal boundaries ensures harmony and trust.

The age-old mantra remains – treat others as you wish to be treated.