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Source: MIL-OSI Submissions
Source: Norton

In Modern-Day Romance, 50 percent of Young New Zealanders Who Have Been in a Romantic Relationship Admit to ‘Stalking’ an Ex or Current Partner Online

AUCKLAND, New Zealand – 25 June 2021 – NortonLifeLock (NASDAQ: NLOK), a global leader in consumer Cyber Safety, today unveiled new findings from a global study examining consumers’ online creeping behaviours, or following someone persistently or stealthily online. The new study uncovers striking generational differences among New Zealanders’ cyber-stalking tendencies in modern day romantic relationships. One half of young adults in New Zealand aged 18-39 who have been in a romantic relationship (50 percent) admit to ‘stalking’ an ex or current partner online by checking in on them without their knowledge or consent, more than double the number of New Zealanders 40 years old or older (18 percent).

Perhaps most alarming, about two in five of these younger New Zealanders (40 percent) believe it is acceptable to be stalked online by a current or former partner as long as they are not being stalked in person. This figure is almost halved among New Zealanders aged 40 or older (22 percent) who do not feel as comfortable in similar situations.

The new findings are published today as a special addendum to the 2021 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report (NCSIR), NortonLifeLock’s flagship consumer survey that examines the impact of cybercrime and consumers’ online behaviours and concerns related to their online security, privacy and identity. Conducted in partnership with The Harris Poll, the 2021 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report: Special Release – Online Creeping surveyed over 10,000 adults 18+ across 10 countries1, including 1,004 New Zealand adults, to assess consumers’ online habits and whether it diverges into cyber stalking.

The study’s results show more than a third of New Zealanders aged 18-39 believe it is okay to stalk a current or former partner online if it’s for the good of the latter’s physical or mental well-being (38 percent), while just 19 percent of New Zealanders who are 40 or older agree. Younger New Zealanders are twice more likely than those 40 or older to agree online stalking is okay if one or both partners have cheated or are suspected of cheating (29 percent vs. 14 percent) and admit they would be more likely to stalk a lover or an ex online if they knew they would not get caught (27 percent vs. 12 percent). Of note, very few New Zealanders who have been in a romantic relationship say they tracked their ex or lover’s physical activity via their phone or health app (5 percent) or used an app to monitor text messages, phone calls, direct messages, emails or photos (4 percent).

“There seems to be a perception that cyberstalking is more “out of sight, out of mind” with 40 percent of young New Zealanders aged 18-39 saying they don’t care if they’re being stalked online by a current or former partner without them knowing as long as they are not being stalked in person,” remarked Mark Gorrie, Senior Director – APJ, NortonLifeLock.

“Whilst the uptake of downloading creepware apps to your partner’s devices is relatively low, the acceptance or belief that cyberstalking our current or ex-partners is relatively harmless, especially among younger New Zealanders is concerning.”

“With recent depictions of online stalking and stalkerware technology featured in TV shows and other pop culture, it’s concerning to think that these dramatisations may be influencing dating standards in modern day romance,” says Gorrie.

Cyber stalking is a critical Cyber Safety issue, and NortonLifeLock firmly stands against this abusive, invasive behaviour. In 2019, NortonLifeLock became a founding member of the Coalition Against Stalkerware, joining over 30 organisations from technology providers to nonprofits serving domestic violence victims to pool tools and resources in the fight against this invasive, dangerous technology. Together with the Coalition, NortonLifeLock is actively working towards goals like improving detection and mitigation of stalkerware, developing best practices for ethical software development, and increasing technical capacity of survivors and advocacy organisations.

Here, a snapshot of findings from New Zealand on online creeping:

Across the globe, cyber stalking isn’t unusual1. 34 percent of global consumers who have been in a romantic relationship admit to checking on a former or current partner online without their knowledge or consent, including a third of New Zealanders (31 percent) who confessed to partaking in this behaviour.
There is low familiarity with “stalkerware” or “creepware” among New Zealanders with 9 percent being familiar, 19 percent have only heard the name, and 72 percent have never heard of it, but younger New Zealanders are much more likely than their older counterparts to be familiar with it (14 percent among those under 40 vs. 6 percent 40+).
The most common form of stalking among New Zealanders who have been in a romantic relationship is checking their current or former partner’s phone (20 percent), followed by using knowledge of their partner’s passwords to gain access to devices or online accounts (13 percent) without knowledge or consent.
Not too many New Zealanders are familiar with or know how to use “creepware.” Very few New Zealanders who have been in a romantic relationship say they tracked their physical activity via their phone or health app (5 percent), used an app to monitor text messages, phone calls, direct messages (DMs), emails, or photos (4 percent), or created a fake profile to check on them on social media (4 percent).
Curiosity is the top reason for stalking among New Zealander couples. Among those who have checked in on a current or former partner, curiosity (40 percent), suspecting their partner was up to no good (29 percent), not trusting their partner (26 percent), and wanting to know what their partner was doing (26 percent) are the top factors that drove them to do it.
More than 1 in 10 (13 percent) say they found out their partner was checking in on them, so they decided to do the same.
New Zealanders generally don’t seem to be on board with online stalking, but the differences in attitudes and awareness between those under 40 and those 40+ are pronounced. For instance, 10 percent of New Zealanders who currently have a significant other/romantic partner believe their partner is at least somewhat likely to plant stalkerware/creepware on their device, with younger consumers, again, much more likely to say so (16 percent among those under 40 vs. 6 percent 40+).

To view the study’s full results and accompanying visual assets, please visit the 2021 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report: Special Release – Online Creeping press kit at: https://www.nortonlifelock.com/about/newsroom.

About the 2021 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report: Special Release – Online Creeping

The research was conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of NortonLifeLock among 10,030 adults (aged 18+) in 10 countries, of which 8,002 have been in a romantic relationship. The survey was conducted February 15-28, 2021 in Australia (n=1,005), France (n=1,000), Germany (n=1,001), India (n=1,000), Italy (n=1,000), Japan (n=1,020), Netherlands (n=1,000), New Zealand (n=1,004, including 810 who have been in a romantic relationship), United Kingdom (n=1,000), and United States (n=1,000, including 808 who have been in a romantic relationship). Data are weighted where necessary by age, gender, race/ethnicity, region, education, marital status, internet usage, household size, and household income to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the population. India was weighted to the population of those who are online. Weighted variables varied by country and included one or more of the following: age, gender, race/ethnicity, region, education, marital status, internet usage, household size, household income, size of place, and propensity to be online. A global postweight was applied to ensure equal weight of each country in the global total. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

About NortonLifeLock Inc.

NortonLifeLock Inc. (NASDAQ: NLOK) is a global leader in consumer Cyber Safety, protecting and empowering people to live their digital lives safely. We are the consumer’s trusted ally in an increasingly complex and connected world. Learn more about how we’re transforming Cyber Safety at www.NortonLifeLock.com.

Editor’s notes

1Australia, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and United States.

MIL OSI