New Zealand businesses could adopt a privacy-first mindset to solve the trust gap

In the past 30 years, the internet has undoubtedly changed almost every aspect of the way we live. Caroline Rainsford, Country Director Google New Zealand, dives into how these changes influence how businesses reach consumers and how expectations around privacy are shifting.

It’s hard to imagine that just over 30 years ago, less than one percent of the world’s population had internet access. Today, more than 4.5 billion people globally are online, and the internet has transformed every aspect of our lives. Just looking at how businesses grow and thrive today, you can’t deny the transformative effect the internet has had on helping New Zealand’s businesses reach their customers, through online advertising and e-commerce, up and down the motu and across the globe.

The next decade will see people measure business success, not just based on their contributions to the economy, but on their response to broader, global issues from social injustice to climate change. The conclusions consumers make about a company’s contribution to our society will influence its fundamental sustainability – its license to operate. Today, the debate taking place about protecting consumer privacy goes to the heart of this broader shift in consumer expectations.

Privacy and the Trust Gap

Across industries, online advertising has helped fund an open, global web of information that has created unprecedented access to knowledge and enabled businesses to grow in a way that wasn’t possible before. However, this model rests on a foundation of trust that’s eroding quickly.

Research from Cisco’s 2020 Consumer Privacy Survey shows that 9 out of 10 consumers state that they care about data privacy with 70 percent willing to spend time and money to protect their data (1). Here in New Zealand, our research showed that 7 in 10 Kiwis were worried about how their data is used to decide which ads are shown to them (2). However, a study from Forrester and Campaign Asia shows that only 30 percent of APAC brands have a dedicated strategy to talk about data privacy (3).

This growing trust gap is why Google has made privacy a priority–from how we communicate with people using our products to how we collaborate with our ads partners. From working behind-the-scenes to block over 100 million spam and phishing attempts globally every day on Gmail to providing personalised recommendations to strengthen account security through tools like “Password Checkup”, we’re investing in open communication about what we’re doing to protect privacy and putting the controls in the hands of our users.

We never sell your personal information and every product we build is private by design. Our Ad Settings make it easy for you to understand why you’re seeing an ad, make adjustments or turn off personalised ads altogether. We’ve announced our intent to phase out third-party cookies on Chrome, and ruled out replacing them with other, similar identifiers that can track people at an individual level as they browse the net. The concept of being tracked individually, across sites, for advertising purposes is increasingly unacceptable. Again our research in Aotearoa showed that more than half of New Zealand adults (55 percent) say that while they do prefer to see relevant ads, they feel cautious about how their data is being used (4).

We need to move towards an internet that is privacy first, which means moving beyond existing systems, putting the right safeguards in place, and communicating the value exchange upfront in clear, direct terms.

We don’t know exactly what that looks like yet, which is why we’ve set up an open forum – the Privacy Sandbox initiative – where anyone can get involved in finding the way forward that better protects privacy while enabling relevant advertising. What we do know is that we have to solve the trust gap if the open, ad-funded internet is going to continue to deliver its benefits. We can’t approach each privacy challenge as an isolated issue: as an industry, we have to weave strong, credible, understandable and transparent privacy protections across our decisions.

The opportunity that lies ahead is to take the Covid-era sense of urgency and purpose, combined with the economic need to rebuild and recover, and make it the norm for the wider range of challenges we face, well beyond the pandemic. Swift, constructive responses to a global crisis has bolstered businesses’ reputation over the past few years. As an industry, we need to lead with agility, collaboration, and an eye on broad-scale impact central to our strategy. With this approach, the private sector will be well placed to deliver better outcomes – not just for our consumers but for society at large.


1) Cisco 2020 Consumer Privacy Survey.

2) Source: Consumer research conducted on behalf of Google New Zealand by YouGov. The research comprised a national sample of 1,511 New Zealand adults 18+ years during the period 11-18 August 2021.

3) Forrester x Campaign Asia: The Price of Privacy on APAC’s Advertising Ecosystem.

4) Source: Consumer research conducted on behalf of Google New Zealand by YouGov. The research comprised a national sample of 1,511 New Zealand adults 18+ years during the period 11-18 August 2021.

About Caroline Rainsford

Caroline Rainsford is Country Director for Google New Zealand.

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