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WIPNZ: Less trust in companies, more in government Charles Mabbett
26 April 2016


Online privacy is a big area of concern. We know it and, according to the latest World Internet Project New Zealand research on Internet use in New Zealand, the public is aware of it and worries more about online tracking by companies than by the government.

The WIPNZ’s survey – The Internet in New Zealand 2015 report - is the fifth undertaken by its researchers, and the first time the biennial study has included questions that are specifically about privacy.

The results reinforce what our office has also discovered through our surveys of what the public is thinking about privacy, online and offline.

Risking privacy online

The WIPNZ survey canvasses what we use the Internet for (the answer is largely entertainment, information and social contact) and how we reconcile the online benefits with online risks to our privacy and how we trade off the personal information we give away through our online behaviours.

For example, the latest WIPNZ’s findings show that 45 percent of respondents agree there is no such thing as privacy online and they accept that situation. But in a seeming contradiction, 68 percent of New Zealand’s Internet users protect their privacy online actively.

About 73 percent have updated their Internet security to protect against viruses. While 44 percent of respondents use cloud computing, 44 percent of those who don’t say privacy is a major concern and 28 percent say security is a major concern.

UMR survey

In our last UMR survey (in 2014), we found that 80 percent of New Zealanders were concerned about the security of personal information on the internet and this level of concern has remained consistent since 2008. 

In the same UMR survey, we found 85 percent of New Zealanders were concerned about the information children put on the Internet about themselves. In the WIPNZ report, nearly all parents surveyed say they tell their children not to give out personal information (95 percent), visit certain websites (90 percent) and chat with strangers online (90 percent). It also found that 65 percent of those respondents actively monitored their children’s social media use.

Companies vs government

The threat to online privacy posed by companies is something that worries more New Zealanders than the threat posed by the government. The WIPNZ survey found 45 percent of respondents were concerned by violations of their Internet privacy by business entities, which is substantially above the 32 percent who indicated that they were concerned about similar violations by the government.

We also found there was a higher level of data privacy trust in government than in companies. A similar discrepancy between trust in businesses and government agencies also came out in our last UMR survey in a question about information sharing. We found 81 percent of our respondents were concerned about businesses sharing personal information without permission, compared with 67 for government agencies doing the same thing.

Privacy violations

Respondents were also asked about whether they had experienced online privacy violations in the WIPNZ survey. The majority reported they had not and 11 percent said they had. Sixty-one percent of those affected by a privacy violation said they regarded their breach as a minor problem but two percent said it had affected their personal relationships, jobs or careers.

The WIPNZ survey was carried out between September and November with 1377 respondents aged 16 and older. Telephone and online interviews were used, along with a small sample of face-to-face interviews to get the views of otherwise difficult-to-interview groups. The two-yearly survey was carried out by researchers from the Institute of Culture, Discourse and Communication at the Auckland University of Technology. The survey report can be found here.

We will be releasing our latest UMR Individual Privacy & Personal Information survey during Privacy Week next month. In the meantime, the last survey - from March 2014 - can be found here.

Image credit: Software Internet Ball via Pixabay




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