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Minismising Risks Of Online Social Networking

New Zealanders need to act on new research which shows most feel uncomfortable posting personal information online

Like speeding and drink driving, people need to modify behaviours if they are to minimise risks associated with online social networking

Wellington, 11 December, 2007 – A new survey has found Kiwis are very uncomfortable providing personal information on online social networking sites like MySpace, FaceBook, Bebo and LinkedIn, prompting calls for people to take more personal action to protect their private information.

Social networking is one of the fastest growing online activities with Bebo reporting that it had doubled its online audience in New Zealand over the last 12 months with users in that country spending an average of 43.6 minutes on line each day.

The results of the Unisys Security Index research show the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders say they are just as uncomfortable providing personal information online as they would be to someone they met on a bus or train.

Discomfort levels increased significantly when individuals were asked to consider a situation where the personal data they provided to join a social networking website might be made available to search engines and third party organisations.

“Never before has so much personal information been exchanged as part of our daily lives,” said Brett Hodgson, Managing Director, UnisysNew Zealand.

“Social networking has entered our daily lives with unprecedented speed.  Online sites can make it easier and more convenient to keep in touch in a business or personal setting - but they also bring risk if not used in the right way.

“These results are a clear message to Kiwis that they need to protect themselves online to avoid the risk of ID theft, financial fraud and actual threats to property and person.

“Just as behaviour change has helped address road safety issues such as speeding and drink driving, it is clear we need to employ the same strategies to minimise any risk associated with online social networking.

“At a time when online social networking continues to grow exponentially, our results show that much needs to be done to address the level of anxiety when it comes to protecting personal information posted on line,” said Hodgson. 

“It is clear that age plays a key role in the level of comfort or otherwise in providing specific personal information to an online social networking site. The Unisys research demonstrates that 18 – 34 year old New Zealanders are much more likely to be comfortable providing detailed information such as email addresses, full names and age to join a social networking website than their counterparts aged 50+.

Some key differences in comfort level providing personal details to join an online social networking site include:

Email: 49% of 18-34 year olds are comfortable compared to just 22% of those aged 50+
Full Name: 38% of 18-34 year olds are comfortable compared to just 15% of those aged 50+
Age: – 73% of 18-34 year olds are comfortable compared to just 39% of those aged 50+
Political views: 58% of 18-34 year olds are comfortable compared to just 29% of those aged 50+
Photograph: 50% of 18-34 year olds comfortable compared to just 7% of those aged 50+

Overall 89% of all New Zealanders surveyed said they were uncomfortable giving personal information online through a social networking site, more than double the proportion of people who said they were uncomfortable giving the same information to a financial company as part of an application.

88% not comfortable providing information to a person they meet in public/bus/train/plane
81% not comfortable providing information to a phone caller from an organisation they are a customer of
71% not comfortable providing information to a company seeking business
43% not comfortable providing information to a government department
41% not comfortable providing information to a work colleague
40% not comfortable providing information to a financial company as part of an application

New Zealanders have also indicated they are uncomfortable providing specific personal details which are commonly sought when joining online social networking sites.

These include:

Street Address:                 89% not comfortable
Phone Number:           88% not comfortable
Place of Work:          75% not comfortable
Full Name:              70% not comfortable
Photograph:             69% not comfortable
Email:                  58% not comfortable providing to join
Date of Birth:          57% not comfortable
Political views:                52% not comfortable
Relationship status:    51% not comfortable
Religion:                       44% not comfortable
Age:                    37% not comfortable

When asked to consider the situation where advised that these types of personal information might be made available to online search engines and other parties, the levels of discomfort in providing the materials rose further.

Street Address:         98% not comfortable at all
Phone Number:           96% not comfortable at all
Place of Work:          91% not comfortable at all
Full Name:                      89% not comfortable at all
Email:                  87% not comfortable at all
Photograph:             86% not comfortable at all
Date of Birth:          81% not comfortable at all
Political views:                71%  not comfortable at all
Relationship status:    70% not comfortable at all
Religion:                       66% not comfortable at all
Age:                    64% not comfortable at all

The Unisys Security Index provides a unique insight into the attitudes of New Zealanders on a wide range of security related issues.

Organisations and governments today confront potential security threats that didn’t exist a decade ago, or, if they did, were not seen as such a pressing concern.  These security threats are global. Their and their effects impact individuals on a daily basis. Unisys approach to security goes beyond ‘bits and bytes’ recognising that there are a broad set of political, economic and consumer forces that impact the security ‘ecosystem’. We believe that the most effective solutions are going to be those formed through collaboration across interests, sectors, borders and geographies.

For full details of all results of the Unisys Security Index for New Zealand, please go to www.unisyssecurityindex.co.nz  

About Unisys Asia Pacific
Unisys offers clients solutions for secure business operations by aligning technology with business strategy. Drawing on a history of industry innovation and expertise, Unisys provides specialised services, delivered by trusted consultants.  In Asia Pacific, Unisys delivers services and solutions through subsidiaries in New Zealand, Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Korea, Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand and through distributors or resellers in other countries in the region.  For more information, visit www.unisys.com.  

About Unisys
Unisys is a worldwide information technology services and solutions company.  We provide consulting, systems integration, outsourcing and infrastructure services, combined with powerful enterprise server technology.  We specialize in helping clients use information to create efficient, secure business operations that allow them to achieve their business goals.  Our consultants and industry experts work with clients to understand their business challenges and create greater visibility into critical linkages throughout their operations.  For more information, visit www.unisys.com.   

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