Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Kiwis urged to voice worries over personal information sharing

Image / Thinkstock
Image / Thinkstock

Kiwis are being urged to voice their worries over how personal information should be shared in the future.

The New Zealand Data Futures Forum, recently set up by the ministries of finance and statistics, is gathering New Zealanders' views, concerns and ideas for the potential sharing of big data held by public and private sector organisations.

The term "big data" refers to the information captured through instruments, sensors, internet transactions, email, video, click streams, and other digital activity.

Potential uses for it raises legal and ethical questions about how to protect privacy and the rights of individuals.

New Zealand's society was heading toward a "fundamental change" and needed to adapt to the age of big data, forum member Professor Miriam Lips said.

"Kiwis find their privacy of huge importance, so privacy needs to be at the heart of our future digital society."

Professor Lips said research had shown that Kiwis trusted Government agencies with their information, along with banks and health institutions - something markedly different from other countries.

"But at the same time, we do not exactly know who has access to personal information, how it is processed, where it is stored ... and therefore, we don't really understand what is happening to it," she said."

At the moment, we deal with these very lengthy privacy statements, and hardly anyone is reading them."

Further, only 25 per cent of the New Zealand population was actually able to read and understand them, she said.

Improvements could include ensuring people were better aware of what was happening with their information, through greater transparency and incorporating "privacy by design" into systems that used it.

"In the end, we want to explore how we actually use data in New Zealand, and therefore reduce the risks and hopefully prevent any potential misuse of it."

A study released this month by the Privacy Commission found that Kiwis view social media providers as the least trustworthy organisations for keeping personal details private, and three-quarters of users had changed their Facebook privacy settings.

Sixty-nine per cent of respondents to the survey rated platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as either highly or somewhat untrustworthy, and half said they had become more worried about privacy in the past few years.

Eighty-four per cent of the respondents thought the police were trustworthy, while 37 per cent trusted businesses trading online.

The top five privacy concerns were what children posted on the internet, credit card or banking details being stolen, businesses sharing information without permission, identity theft, and Government agencies sharing information without permission.

People have until mid next month to have their say here.

- NZ Herald

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