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New Zealanders Concerned About Smart Devices Listening In

News Release

New Zealanders Concerned About Smart Devices Listening In; Selective About Their Digital Footprint Being Tracked; and Fight Back After Data Breaches - New Unisys Security Index™ Finds

40% of Kiwis who own a smart device with listening capability say they’ve received social media posts and ads about a topic they talked about aloud

New Zealanders are happy for government to use their digital footprint to track people in an emergency but not to plan public roads and transport infrastructure

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, 3 September 2019 – New research from Unisys Corporation (NYSE: UIS) reveals that many New Zealanders hold strong privacy concerns about smart devices listening in on their conversations and organisations extracting personal information from their digital footprints, according to the 2019 Unisys Security Index™.

Forty percent of New Zealand smart device owners say they started receiving social media posts and ads about a topic they had recently talked about aloud, and almost two-thirds of this group say it concerns them. Just over a quarter (26%) report that while talking aloud, the virtual assistant in their smartphone or smart watch asked them for more information or to repeat themselves – even though they had not turned it on. Similarly, 23% say that while talking aloud, a voice-activated, home-based smart speaker had asked them for more information or to repeat themselves – even though they had not turned it on. In both cases, approximately half of people who experienced this say it concerns them.

“Voice-activated, command-driven digital assistants embedded in smartphones, smart watches or purpose-built devices such as smart speakers are now common. However, in an environment whereNew Zealanders are very aware of data security threats, many Kiwis are concerned that their passion for Internet of Things devices has made their personal conversations and activity vulnerable to being monitored and used in ways we did not intend,” says Wellington-based Richard Amer, Director for Digital Government, Unisys Asia Pacific.

New Zealanders believe smart devices are listening in

Yes and it concerns meYes but it does

not concern me

I started receiving social media posts and ads about a topic I had recently talked about aloud24%16%40%
While I was talking aloud the virtual assistant in my smartphone/watch asked for more info even though I had not turned it on

While I was talking aloud a voice activated smart speaker asked for more info even though I had not turned it on12%11%23%

Support for Data Collection and Sharing Depends on Trust, Privacy and Security

The 2019 Unisys Security Index research also found New Zealanders are selective about which situations they deem acceptable for an organisation to collect data from social media, online purchases, smartphones and wearable devices. Almost half of respondents (47%) support the government collecting this information to identify who is in the vicinity of a disaster. Yet only 20% support the government monitoring an individual’s travel patterns to plan roads and public infrastructure. Nearly four in 10 (38%) support airports and airlines collecting information to efficiently guide a passenger’s journey through an airport, but only 10% support an employer doing the same to monitor an employee’s location during the workday.

More than a third (36%) of New Zealanders do not support data collection in any of the situations above.

Similarly, public support varies for organisations sharing an individual’s personal information with other organisations. The highest support is for police sharing information with other law enforcement agencies within New Zealand (72%) or internationally (71%) to solve a crime. There is also strong support (67%) for doctors sharing a patient’s healthcare history with other healthcare providers the patient uses for a complete view of the individual’s health. Almost half of Kiwis (47%) support a government-administered proof-of-identity used to confirm a citizen’s identity to access commercial services such as a bank account. However, only 16% support banks sharing a customer’s financial data with another financial service provider to offer a single point of contact for multiple services.

“The top reason given by New Zealanders for not supporting their data being shared is that they want control over exactly who has access to their personal information. This is a clear concern around privacy, rather than one related to the ability of an organisation to secure the data. If organisations want to gain the public’s support to access and use information from their digital footprint, they must address three criteria: trust in the organisation involved, the purpose given for how the data will be used and the benefit to the individual.”

Kiwis Take Action after Data Breaches

The research reveals that New Zealanders’ high level of concern about data security puts organisations on notice that they risk not just losing data, but also losing business. More than a quarter (28%) of New Zealanders say they experienced a data breach in the last year. The most common types of breaches were email hacking (8%) and various forms of identity theft: social media profile hijacked (7%), credit card details stolen (6%) and suspicious behaviour in their bank account (6%).

Many Kiwis took action against the organisations they hold responsible for not protecting their data against data breaches. Of those who suffered a data breach, 14% said they stopped dealing with the organisation, such as closing their account, 11% publicly exposed the issue via social media and 7% took legal action.

“Many Kiwis are taking action designed to hurt the organisation they trusted to hold their information as they hold the business or government agency responsible for not protecting their data. Closing accounts and public shaming drives customer loss and reputation damage – it’s a deliberate move by consumers to make their concerns heard. To build trust and public support, government and commercial entities must show they take these concerns seriously not only by securing data from attack, but also how in they use that data themselves,” Mr Amer explains.

Download the detailed report and infographic at


About the Unisys Security Index

Unisys has conducted the Unisys Security Index – the longest running snapshot of security concerns conducted globally – since 2007 to provide an ongoing, statistically-robust measure of concern about security. The index is a calculated score out of 300 covering changing consumer attitudes over time across eight areas of security in four categories: national security and disaster/epidemic, in the National Security category; bankcard fraud and financial obligations, in the Financial Security category; viruses/hacking and online transactions, in the Internet Security category; and identity theft and personal safety, in the Personal Security category. The 2019 Unisys Security Index is based on online surveys conducted February 27-March 22, 2019 of nationally representative samples of at least 1,000 adults in each of the following countries: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, the U.K. and the U.S. The margin of error at a country level is +/-3.1% at 95% confidence level, and 0.9% at a global level. In New Zealand, the first 2019 Unisys Security Index survey was conducted 27 February – 5 March 2019. A follow up survey was conducted 22-28 March 2019, after the 15 March attack in Christchurch, to assess the impact on security concerns. The New Zealand respondent sample was weighted with respect to national demographic characteristics such as gender, age, and region. The margin of error +/-3.1% per wave at 95% confidence level and 0.9% for the global results.

About Unisys

Unisys is a global information technology company that builds high-performance, security-centric solutions for the most demanding businesses and governments on Earth. Unisys offerings include security software and services; digital transformation and workplace services; industry applications and services; and innovative software operating environments for high-intensity enterprise computing. For more information on how Unisys builds better outcomes securely for its clients across the Government, Financial Services and Commercial markets, visit Follow Unisys on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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