How vulnerable are you when sharing personal data online?

Professor Miriam Lips has studied how New Zealanders manage their personal information online and some New Zealanders are more vulnerable than others.

How we share our personal data online

Our world is rapidly changing as a result of fast-moving technological developments—and Professor Miriam Lips, the Chair in Digital Government at Victoria’s School of Government, has studied New Zealanders' online information-sharing and privacy behaviours.

“We often hear that people are very concerned about their privacy in these online environments. At the same time we can observe that people share quite a bit of their sensitive information with others via digital channels,” she says.

She specifically explored how New Zealanders' manage their personal information in online relationships with government, commercial providers and on social networking sites.

The research also looked at New Zealanders’ experiences with cyber-crime and cyber-enabled crime.

“More and more aspects of New Zealanders’ daily lives are taking place via digital technology instead of face-to-face interactions or paper-based forms of communication,” says Professor Lips.

“This leads to fundamental changes in how people and organisations collect, manage and use personal information and has important privacy, security, ethical and other democratic implications.”

Some New Zealanders are more vulnerable than others

Professor Lips found that, without exception, all research participants found being private online of critical importance, and that young people and Asian people were particularly privacy savvy in their online behaviours.

“However, older internet users were not so savvy, and were therefore much more vulnerable to identity fraud or even theft—situations where someone obtains and uses a victim’s personal information through fraud or deception for financial gain.”

She found that most research participants understand that information represents value in online relationships and are ‘privacy pragmatists’: if people want to use the service, they understand that they will need to provide their personal information.

However, many participants felt they often had no choice about sharing their information online. People also felt that they are often being asked too much information: several participants exited an online transaction when information demands were too intrusive.

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To find out more

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