Privacy trends

Interesting results emerge from a survey released by the Privacy Commissioner yesterday. Among the findings:

  • 35% of respondents are more concerned about individual privacy than 2 years ago.
  • At the same time, “trust ratings” for most organisations holding personal data have increased since 2 years ago.
  • 78% of under-30s use social networking sites.
  • Approximately 57% of those users (estimated) believe social networking sites are “mainly private” places for sharing information.
  • 54% of respondents were concerned about what social networking uses their personal information for.

One plausible interpretation is that at the same time we are becoming more aware and concerned about privacy issues, we are also becoming more ready to disclose information. This view would be supported by comments to a follow-up article at the NZ Herald website, which reported:

Facebook users who did not think they could protect their privacy outnumbered those who thought they could by four to one – and only one of them thought it was a bad thing.

There are several seemingly conflicting trends within this data, which bears out the overarching (and not entirely new) 64-million dollar conundrum of online privacy: people are willing to trade privacy for functionality, so to what extent should governments intervene? Do we need saving from ourselves?

The survey strongly confirms that New Zealanders do care about privacy, and a recent US survey confirmed the same in that country. Increasing education and awareness of privacy issues are key steps to empowering individuals to make their own, informed decisions, and New Zealand’s Privacy Commissioner is very much at the forefront of that process. It is also helpful when Facebook privacy concerns becomes front page news on our major daily newspaper (and not on a slow news day either).

More local coverage of this issue: