06 Jul 2015
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Social media monitoring: Yes for terrorism but clear no for marketing

By Heather Wright

Kiwis are apparently an altruistic bunch, with a new Unisys study showing that most of us are happy for our publicly available social media information to be monitored to detect possible terrorist activity.

Seventy-three percent of Kiwis surveyed for the Unisys Security Insights report supported monitoring social media to detect potential terrorist activity, says Steve Griffin, Unisys New Zealand country manager.

Sixty-six percent of those surveyed also support such monitoring to identify public issues or concerns, which could be anything from global warming or the state of the economy through to local issues.

“Kiwis are quite altruistic when it comes to perhaps sacrificing an element of privacy for the greater good,” Griffin says.

“It also shows there is a real acceptance that social media in the wrong hands can be used to spread terrorist activity across borders – that globalisation of terrorism.”

The survey happen prior to the Tunisian attack which saw a lone gunman kill 39 people at a Tunisian hotel, but Griffin says that incident, where the individual ‘was a big Facebook fan and was posting pro-Isis propaganda on his Facebook page shows that it is real’.

“Global reports of social media being used by terrorists are likely to have influenced the New Zealand public’s broad acceptance for authorities to monitor these channels for public safety and national security purposes,” Griffin says.

“The possibility of preventing a terrorist act before it happens is appealing,” he adds.

However, he says, Kiwis are discerning about the circumstances in which we’re prepared to allow social media monitoring – and when it comes to using the information for targeted marketing such as advertising and personalised offers, we’re not so happy. Just 30% of those survey said that was acceptable.

“Perhaps we see this as too invasive,” Griffin says.

Sixty-three percent of New Zealanders surveyed supported monitoring social media to evaluate job candidates in positions of trust, such as teachers, doctors and lawyer, but there was less support – 59% - to use such monitoring to track an organisations performance or reputation.

“Where monitoring is clearly linked to the greater good there is a high tolerance and high support for it, and clearly at the other end, where it’s not for the greater good, but for commercial reasons, there is lower support," Griffin says.

Griffin says the survey clearly shows organisations can’t afford to abuse their relationship with their customers and citizens in the way that they collect, analyse and use publicly available data.

“Even though consumers can’t actually control an organisation’s ability to mine social media channels, they may react against an organisation that uses their data against their wishes,” he notes.

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