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Ironic? Kiwis worried about privacy of public social media accounts

20 May 2016

Kiwis are holding their social media data close to their chests, according to a new report from Colmar Brunton, which reveals New Zealanders are more concerned about government agencies sharing their social media records than their credit history, income details, family court records and even their suspected but unproven criminal activity.

The study Perspective, looks into what Kiwis think about government departments sharing information.

According to Dr Andrew Robertson, group account director, Social Research Agency, 77% of Kiwis oppose government agencies accessing their social media records without permission.

“The sensitivity around social media is a little surprising given the public nature of social media activity itself,” Robertson notes

“Kiwis need to realise that their social media activity can not only be extremely widely viewed but is also discoverable in the legal sense,” he says.

“It’s likely that for many New Zealanders, the social media voyage of discovery over the past decade has been one of ‘post first, think later’, with people only recently beginning to understand the implications of their online activity,” explains Robertson.

Robertson says the other types of information Kiwis are most protective of could be described as inherently private matters.

According to he report, the top five information types Kiwis oppose being shared by government agencies without permission are financial assets and savings (90%), sexual orientation (83%), history of physical illness and treatment (80%) and history of mental illness and treatment (78%), ahead of social media records in fifth place.

Robertson says the survey was carried out in the context of the Government’s ‘data highway’, initiated in 2015. Under this scheme departments including Health, Education, Social Development, Justice, Inland Revenue and eventually all others, will be able to share information easily between each other.

“Kiwis have mixed views on this idea. More than a third (36%) disagree with government departments sharing personal information but almost half (47%) agree with the move and 14% are neutral about it,” he says.

“Information sharing appears to be the way of the future when you consider the Government’s vision of a ‘data supermarket’, which would further allow NGOs, Iwi and Pasifika groups to make use of such information,” adds Robertson.

The report reveals Pacific Island people (48%), low income earners (48%) and 18 and 19 year olds (60%) are those most uncomfortable with information sharing, while a clear majority of public servants (64%), high income earners (57%) and Indian people (56%) are comfortable with information sharing.

Additionally, the information Kiwis are most relaxed about government departments accessing without permission includes their country of birth (77%), criminal convictions (75%), date of birth (69%), whether a person has a passport (69%) and whether a person has been declared bankrupt (66%).

The report also notes that women are generally less favourable then men towards information sharing. Specifically, they are much more likely than men to believe permission should be needed to access information such as personal contact details, marital status, family court records, student loan status, employer contact details and names of immediate family members.

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