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Internet Safety Company Welcomes Move To Empower Users To Protect Themselves

 Internet safety company Safe Surfer has commended Kiwibank for being the first bank to introduce a feature that lets customers block payments to gambling sites.

Safe Surfer CEO and co-founder Rory Birkbeck says Kiwibank’s move to let customers put a block on payments to online casinos and gaming websites from their Visa debit and credit cards is a welcome tool to help people fight their gambling problems.

Figures from The Department of Internal Affairs show that while gambling declined across physical venues during COVID-19, it rose dramatically on online gambling sites. Lotto saw a record 13% increase in money spent during lockdowns helping drive New Zealand’s highest quarterly spend on gambling – $252 million – between October and December 2020.

Birkbeck says in light of the problem Kiwibank’s move is great and hopes to see other banks follow suit.

“From our point of view, we think the crucial thing is to give people agency over their internet use. So while blocking the payment part of the equation is a good step, we think it’s important to let people create a safe internet environment where they simply can’t see gambling sites at all, so they know they are safe to use the internet without being tempted.”

Birkbeck says Safe Surfer uses machine learning to proactively recognise and block sites across its entire range of categories, which includes gambling but also such things as pornography. Users can choose which category of sites they want to block. The ability to change these controls is PIN protected and users can choose to have someone such as a partner or support person have control over that PIN, rather than themselves.

“It’s impossible for people to not use the internet nowadays. Abstinence from being online is not really an option. But it is possible to create an online experience that is safe and lets people enjoy and use the internet without finding themselves falling into destructive behaviours. We think that with the aid of moves like this from Kiwibank and tools like Safe Surfer that individuals and their communities can be protected from harm without having to sacrifice access to what is now a fundamental necessity of life.”

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