Privacy online is becoming an increasing concern for many Kiwis with figures from a recent Privacy Commission report leading a Canadian company to earmark New Zealand as a testing ground for its new security-conscious alternative.

Social media continues to grow in New Zealand, with a bi-annual Individual Privacy & Personal Information report in 2014 showing more Kiwis than every were on Facebook (61 per cent) despite many users being dubious about the trustworthiness of the sites. For under-30s this number climbs to 91 per cent.

According to the report more than half of users now view social networks as 'public spaces' and are forced to act as such with 77 per cent having changed their Facebook privacy settings to private. Despite this, 63 per cent were still concerned about the security of their personal information.

Half of all respondents said they believed a business had shared their information without permission and 69 per cent thought social media sites were untrustworthy.


Concern about businesses sharing information with other businesses was high at 81 per cent, while concern about government agencies doing the equivalent with other government agencies was lower at 67 per cent.

For Canadian company AirG and Just10 founder Frederick Ghahramani these figures made New Zealand the perfect place to launch a new secure site.

Mr Ghahramani said his interest began following the birth of his child, when he found himself annoyed when friend and family members were taking pictures of his child and posting them online.

"Around that time I had also left Facebook and social media. I just didn't want the headache and it didn't appeal to me any more. The privacy stuff was annoying and Snowden at that time had just leaked his information.

"I just wasn't comfortable any more and I realised everything I had been building over the years, the games, the telecom software, were not the kind of products I would want to use or I would want my kids to use."

This concern is reflected in the 2014 Privacy Commission report which showed a staggering 85 per cent of respondents said they were concerned about the information children put on the internet about themselves.

It also dawned on Ghahramani that he had been "quite a naughty teenager who did a lot of stupid things".

"I realised if I had done that kind of thing nowadays it would be around forever and I would be judged by the sum of actions when I was an idiot full of testosterone."

He brought a team together and began constructing their own site with one rule: take everything that annoyed them about Facebook and get rid of it.

"Two and a half years later we have come out with a product. It's an ad-free social network that is the antithesis of Facebook."

"It's got no tracking, it's got no public profiles, it's got no companies, and the way we are going will be end-to-end encryption."

Just10 has even done away with gender and location, reasoning that your friends already know.

Another big change: you can only have 10 friends - a change which Ghahramani said felt restrictive at first but which most users actually found liberating.

"We wear different masks when we are around our boys, our partners, our parents, and one of the most stressful situations we can have is when they're all at the same party. You're managing all these masks at the same time and the complexity of that is who is the real you?

"The other 300 people that are your friends are limiting what you can say because they're watching, but you're not really reacting with any of them. There's only a small group of people you're actually interacting with."

Victoria University professor Miriam Lips said she thought Just10 was a step in the right direction.

"I don't think that their '100 per cent private' claim can be fully justified as you always will need to share some personal information in order to get their service in a private and secure way," she said.

"At least the information-sharing is with people's consent and therefore privacy-friendly: that is, if people can find and fully understand their privacy policy, which is not an easy read for lay people."

By constraining the Just10 network Mr Ghahramani said Just10 was able to operate at a far lower cost.

This is because all information is only stored for 10 days, making storage and search costs minimal compared to sites like Facebook or Instagram which store information indefinitely.

"We don't need to do the advertising bit. We can find some premium revenue sources where we have the core for free and over time try and get a small percentage to pay a premium for extra features."

These services may include selling devices to improve security on the internet. Mr Ghahramani said Just10 was not competing with Facebook because it was offering a totally different service.

Just10 is available across iPhone, Android and Windows mobile, as well as online.