18 Feb 2016

Govt asked for private data 12,000 times in 3 months

2:51 pm on 18 February 2016

Law enforcement and other government agencies made nearly 12,000 requests to 10 companies for their customers' personal information during a three-month trial.

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Photo: 123rf.com

Commissioner John Edwards appeared before the justice and electoral select committee this morning for the commission's annual review.

He told MPs the commission had surveyed 10 companies which volunteered to take part in the pilot programme between August and October 2015.

The financial sector received the most requests followed by telecommunications companies and the utility sector.

The commission found the three agencies that made the most requests were Inland Revenue, police and the Ministry of Social Development.

"About 96.4 percent of requests were complied with, without alteration. What that left us with was 3.6 percent and those were instances where the agency actually didn't have any information about the person."

Most of the requests were made under "statutory compulsion".

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards Photo: SUPPLIED

The Commission said the trial represented a small sample of the total information requests that New Zealand companies received each year.

'Lagging behind'

Mr Edwards told the committee that privacy law reform was becoming a matter of "urgency" and his office lacked crucial powers.

"We're starting to lag behind and the pace of change in this area is really picking up and increasing. More and more personal information is vulnerable, more and more is online, and there's a greater concern."

Mr Edwards said he wanted to give the public the confidence that their personal information was safe.

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