Despite the Edward Snowden revelations of mass online collection of meta data and some high profile data breaches at our own government departments, what Kiwis most fear is not snooping spies, but companies harvesting our Facebook likes and internet searches.
The latest World Internet Project survey of nearly 1400 Kiwis included for the first time a set of questions about online privacy and the results were interesting to say the least:
Twenty-nine percent of respondents indicated that they were concerned about violations of their internet privacy by the government. This is fewer than the 42% percent who are concerned about such violations by corporate entities but the same as those concerned about privacy violations by other people.
In addition, 45 per cent of survey respondents agreed or agreed strongly with the statement that “There is no privacy online and I accept it”, while a further 31 per cent were neutral on thew question. So Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘privacy is dead’ proclamation seems to have had some influence after all.
Given the general public apathy here around the mass surveillance issue and the prospect that New Zealand is likely to be donkey deep in it due to our Five Eyes membership, its probably not much of a surprise that Kiwis are relatively unconcerned about the GCSB monitoring internet activity and traffic. As the WIP study also reveals, most people think they have nothing to hide.
New Zealand internet users are right to fear the corporations to a greater degree. The data the likes of Facebook, Google, Amazon and even Trade Me have on us is scary. We voluntarily give it away so that it can be fed into an algorithm that more accurately decides what we want to buy, see, read and do.
Despite that, remarkably few of us report experiencing an online privacy breach. I guess ignorance is bliss…
And when our privacy is violated the impact is usually perceived to be minimal.
At the Science Media Centre, we asked University of Auckland Associate Professor in commercial law, Gehan Gunasekara, what he thought of the survey results:
“Two aspects that are of interest are that more individuals are concerned about corporations violating their privacy than governments – despite many publicised government privacy lapses such as by the IRD and WINZ – but the overall level of concern is warranted due to the ever increasing amount of personal data being collected by both. Secondly, responses that there is no privacy online do not correlate to the findings that the vast majority indicate they actively protect their privacy online and feel they can control their online privacy (the last question).
“These findings indicate people have mixed feelings about online privacy and do in fact care about it very much which has been confirmed in other New Zealand research.”
Many more interesting trends and insights are revealed in the full report.