What the stats say

August 1, 2007 at 10:31 pm 4 comments

There isn’t a lot of high quality, easily accessible research in New Zealand about peoples’ perceptions of information collected by government as well as the associated trust and privacy issues.

That is why the research done about two years back by Statistics New Zealand called “Public Attitudes to the Confidentiality, Privacy and Security of Official Government Survey Data” (pdf, 4.57 MB) remains so important.

It is quite a long document but, given loads of patience, it is a goldmine of information. Despite its title, there is a lot of valuable information buried deep in the report about peoples’ perceptions of government in general and confidence in the online channel.

The top five nuggets that I uncovered are:

Trust in government is, by international comparisons, quite high. There is a core group of New Zealanders (15% to 20%) who are concerned about issues of confidentiality, privacy and the general treatment of information gathered by the government. Interestingly, these respondents are united more by attitude than demographics.

A majority of respondents felt that the government would treat information collected in an appropriate manner. However, few were aware of the actual processes in place to store or keep information secure but tended to assume such processes existed.

Levels of support for government departments sharing information collected was mixed. However, support increased when respondents were prompted on sharing information for different reasons with support at 70% to detect fraud.

44% of respondents agreed with the statement “The Government follows rules that protect the privacy of New Zealanders’ information”, 40% were neutral, and 15% disagreed. Not surprisingly, there was a clear indication that “The less the Government knows about me the better.”

58% of respondents considered the Internet as the least secure option for returning census forms. The main reasons offered were concerns about hackers and a lack of trust in Internet security.

So, in conclusion, trust in government is generally high but people continue to remain wary about using the online channel for transacting with government. That’s a good foundation for e-government to build on…increasing confidence in people transacting online being the clear challenge.


Entry filed under: government, NZ, personal_info, privacy, report, security, strategy, trust.

Biometrics for kids “I’ve done nothing wrong”

4 Comments Add your own

  • […] In my opinion, The Electoral Commission’s view of a lack of public confidence in high risk Internet transactions mirrors that raised by the research done in New Zealand that I referred to in a previous post. […]

  • 2. Stephen Revill  |  August 5, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    The Stat’s study is of interesr, but can only be of on-going value it is followed up by repeat surveys sufficient to track trends in opinion over time.

    In the recent publication CAN ID? VISIONS FOR CANADA’s IDENTITY POLICY (authored jointly by the Faculty of Info Studies at the University of Toronto and by a reseacrch unit from the LSE) it is stated (at page 12)

    ” In almost every country when a national ID policy is first introduced as with the Australia Card and the UK Identity Card in recent years, public support is originally quite high. In both Australia and the UK public support was above 80%. As time goes on and problems with the policy are identified and the polictical and media process follows, support begins to fall away.”

    In order to avoid these problems it seems to me that you need a carefully designed policy based on transparent, consistent and polictically justfiable objectives plus an active and robust communciations startegy, things that have clearly been lacking in the case of the Australian and British initiatives.

  • 3. Vikram  |  August 5, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    Thanks Stephen.

    It would be great if Statistics NZ repeat the survey regularly but I don’t see any indication on their website of that happening.

    Can you post the URL for the Can ID publication? That would be of wide interest.

    It’s not clear if you are drawing a linkage between the Statistics NZ survey and a national ID policy. If you are, it would be good to look at your reasoning.

  • 4. stephen revill  |  August 6, 2007 at 11:42 am


    The URL for the Can ID publication is


    There is an overlap in the subject matter of the two studies. For example the CAN ID paper quotes statistics on confidence levels around government’s ability to prperly manage personal information. It also provides figures on people’s attitudes to data sharing between government departments.


    Stephen Revill


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