Kiwis are relatively savvy in protecting online identity, says study

The Victoria University of Wellington study examined the information behaviour of New Zealanders in online commercial transactions, online transactions with government and on social networking sites

Age, cultural background, income and education are significant factors in how Kiwis manage their personal information online, a Victoria University of Wellington study, has found.

The study examined the information behaviour of New Zealanders in online commercial transactions, online transactions with government and on social networking sites.

According to the study, although 95 per cent of the population uses the Internet on a regular basis and most of them at home, those people who did not go online in the last 12 months belong to lower income groups or do not have a personal income.

It also shows that older generations engage less in a variety of online activities, including online personal banking, online government transactions, participation in online entertainment, creation of content and using a social networking site.

“Fourteen per cent of young people up to 24 years of age indicated that they don’t know why they provide their personal details in online commercial transactions. That indicates another significant generational difference in people’s online privacy behaviours,” said Professor Miriam Lips, chair in e-government, school of government at Victoria University.

Professor Lips led the study, which was commissioned by the Department of Internal Affairs.

The study indicated that the majority of New Zealanders have a high level of trust that the country’s government agencies will keep their identity information safe—significantly higher than overseas data suggests—but the way individuals choose to provide information differs.

“Māori, for instance, are significantly more likely to share personal information in online government transactions, compared with non-Māori,” said Professor Lips.

Another finding showed that only 25 per cent of the population reads online privacy statements and is able to understand them.

“Forty-four per cent of the population usually do not read online privacy statements at all, 25 per cent usually read them but don’t understand them, and 3.3 per cent don’t know where to find them. That certainly suggests to me that there is room for improvement,” she said.

The study indicates that New Zealanders are quite savvy with protecting their identity information online with 94 per cent of the population using antivirus software, 87 per cent limiting the personal information they provide online, 82 per cent using tools to limit unsolicited emails such as spam, and 77 per cent using security-protected Wi-Fi.

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Also, direct experience with forms of cyber-enabled crime was found to be much less common in New Zealand compared to overseas experience.

“One possible explanation is that Kiwis are more careful with their identity information online compared to people from other countries and therefore forms of cybercrime or cyber-enabled crime do not happen that often in New Zealand. Another possibility is that Kiwis are less targeted by online thieves or criminals,” said Professor Lips.

She said people from different ethnic groups and people of low income significantly more often had reported an experience with a form of cyber-enabled crime.

However, she warned that these findings should be regarded with caution as survey participants were selected through random sampling using the New Zealand Electoral Roll, meaning comparatively small numbers of some groups are represented, including Pasifika and Asians.

The research findings are based on an in-depth survey of 467 respondents, with two more components of the research yet to be completed before a full picture can be presented.

The second stage of the project, which will involve qualitative interviews and focus groups, is due to be completed later this year.

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