Privacy protections paramount in Lifestyle Survey

16 June 2011

New Zealand’s most comprehensive survey asking Kiwis their preferences on everything from takeaways to travel destinations begins landing in 800,000 letterboxes and 125,000 email inboxes from next week.

The second New Zealand Post Lifestyle Survey poses 56 questions to householders on a wide variety of preferences including what sport they play, what kind of car they drive and their favourite fast foods.

Data from the voluntary survey is used by New Zealand Post for its own marketing databases and for providing commercial clients with the richest source of consumer information in New Zealand. This ultimately produces more tailored direct marketing to the consumer.

New Zealand Post General Manager Integrated Communications, Dr Sohail Choudhry says data gathering of people’s personal preferences is a vital component of modern marketing, but it is crucial the public are aware that their information is being used for marketing purposes.

“Because of New Zealand Post’s trusted position in the community, we need to be an industry leader in being up-front and clear about why we’re asking for this information and what it is used for,” said Dr. Choudhry.

New Zealand Post ensures the information gathered is kept secure and used in accordance with strict terms and conditions – either for its own marketing or with trusted, contracted commercial partners such as utility, telecommunication and print media companies.

Dr. Choudhry said ‘data mining’ was becoming more sophisticated and less apparent to the public, particularly on social media platforms and with competitions.

“People may not realise they are surrendering personal information when they utilise various apps, play online games or enter competitions. That detail is often buried or not readily apparent.

“There are tremendous benefits for the consumer for companies and organisations having a clearer picture of people’s likes and dislikes, but that shouldn’t be at the cost of privacy,” he said.

Dr. Choudhry said New Zealand Post ensures people maintain ultimate control of their volunteered information, giving them the option to withdraw their data at any time in the future.

New Zealand Post has also learned lessons from the first Lifestyle Survey in 2009 which some people thought was compulsory and others mistook for the census.

“We repeatedly state – eleven times in the survey form in fact – that the Lifestyle Survey is completely voluntary. The survey doesn’t coincide with the census year this time so there won’t be any mix-ups on that score either,” he said.

The voluntary New Zealand Post Lifestyle Survey 2011 will also be available online from 20 June at

Questions and answers

Q: What does New Zealand Post do with the information?
New Zealand Post creates a profile of each household and based on the options selected by the householder, these profiles are made available for organisations/companies to communicate with them. The information is not for sale but rather for rent so organisations will receive a name and address only. Responses to the survey questions themselves are not supplied to the organisations mailing to consumers. They will only be able to mail to the consumer once and then the data must be erased.

Q: Are individuals targeted to receive the survey?
The surveys are addressed to ‘the householder’ and not individuals.  New Zealand Post has a database of delivery points in New Zealand.

Q: Is the information secure?
Yes. New Zealand Post hosts the data in a secure environment with strict access control.

Q: Can people remove their data once they have completed and returned the form?
Yes, at any time in the future, people can request New Zealand Post to erase their data as supplied in the survey.

Q: There were some concerns expressed by the Privacy Commissioner about the 2009 Survey. Were any adjustments made to satisfy those concerns?
Yes. The Privacy Commissioner voiced concerns about the 2009 survey that it wasn’t clear enough about its purpose and that it did not state clearly enough that it was voluntary. We have listened to feedback from the public and the Privacy Commissioner and made some adjustments including;

  • The heading has been changed from ‘An Opportunity to Win’ to ‘The New Zealand Post Lifestyle Survey 2011’ so that it is very clear participants are taking part in a survey.
  • The survey document has been amended to make it crystal clear participation is voluntary. The word ‘voluntary’ appears 11 times throughout the document while it is clearly stated that participants can choose to leave some answers blank.
  • The ‘Here’s how it all works’ section is front and centre on the front page, encouraging the participant to read and understand what the survey is about, what it will be used for etc.

Q: Does the survey conform with the Privacy Act 1993?
Absolutely. The survey has been checked carefully by the New Zealand Post Group legal team and an external legal firm. The survey is consistent with the privacy principles in the Privacy Act 1993. All personal information is collected, held and used in accordance with the Privacy Act.

Q: Why are prizes offered?
New Zealand Post appreciates the survey is comprehensive and detailed, asking participants to spend time completing it. We are keen to give people the opportunity to be rewarded for their time and effort.

Q: How were the 800,000 households and 125,000 email addresses determined?
The spread of the households as determined by statistical modeling to ensure correct coverage of various populations. The distribution (particularly the email list) was also influenced by feedback from households who had opted-in in the past to receive such questionnaires.

Q: When will the information supplied be used from for marketing purposes?
The information will be available for rent to companies and organisations from 12 September 2011.

Q: What is made available to external organisations from the survey?
New Zealand Post retains and stores the information provided. Participants can check, correct or remove any information they wish. The information provided is not for sale but rather for rent so organisations will receive a name and address only. Responses to the survey questions themselves are not supplied to the organisations mailing to consumers. They will only be able to mail to the consumer once and then the data must be erased.