Around half of New Zealanders don't realise their personal information is being collected online for use by companies, governments and other organisations to market goods and services, while approximately a third of people don't worry about it.
International research for telecommunications provider Ericsson found 39 percent of people worldwide know the makers of "apps" for smartphones and tablets are collecting personal information.
Another 39 percent didn't know, and another 21 percent didn't think it was happening.
The findings come from interviews with 48,500 people globally by market research firm ConsumerLab, of whom 500 were in New Zealand.
Awareness was better among users of social media sites like Facebook, with 52 percent expecting their personal information to be harvested.
Some 53 percent expected that to happen when they used a mobile phone, but only 43 percent expected it of Google or Apple.
"When it comes to New Zealand versus other countries, I would say there's relatively low awareness of how and whether information is used," Ericsson's Australasian strategy and marketing general manager, Kursten Leins, told BusinessDesk.
"About half didn't perceive it (personal information) was used. It's not necessarily good or bad but there's probably a better job for businesses to do of telling people how their information is used."
The research found that consumers were generally willing to have their personal information used if it meant they were offered goods and services in tailored packages that better met their needs.
"A clear benefit in the form of discounts or clearly improved user experience positively affects the willingness to share even sensitive information," the ConsumerLab report says.
"From a privacy perspective, Big Data is thus not considered a problem. This does, however, highly a continued lack of consumer understanding around the power of data mining.
"Most people give little or no thought to the fact that it is not impossible to reconstruct personally identifiable information from large anonymous data sets."
Many regarded information-sharing as simply part of participating in daily life at home and at work. Some 44 percent of those polled globally were happy to have personal information used to create personalised information, but only 5 percent were happy to see their information sold to another company.
Almost three-quarters of those surveyed said they would "feel bad about it" if information or files on their computer or mobile phone was being shared in an uncontrolled and unregulated way. Some 67 percent didn't like medical information being shared without permissions, and 56 percent opposed sharing their current location without permissions.
The report argues for a "common market for personal information" to cater to the needs o9f the private sector, governments, and the public sector, as well as individual consumers.
Australia and New Zealand have relatively rigorous data privacy rules, compared to much of Asia and the US, he said.
Unlike trends in Asian markets, New Zealand and Australian consumers also still demonstrate a much greater preference for face-to-face dealings rather than online.
Meanwhile, Ericsson's New Zealand research found that 47 percent of kiwis think the Internet aids freedom of expression, compared with 50 percent worldwide, 43 percent of people locally think the Internet helps them connect with like-minded people (51 percent globally), and some 59 percent say they can't imagine life without the Internet (55 percent global average).
By Pattrick Smellie - BusinessDesk