NZ Privacy Commissioner calls for legislative clean-up
New Zealand Privacy Commissioner John Edwards is calling for the repeal of 22 government provisions covering information matching, following the publication of a report finding that many of them have never been used.
Information matching provisions are effectively exemptions to the New Zealand Privacy Act’s information privacy rules, designed to allow government departments to compare sets of data about individuals.
The provisions are enacted by parliament to allow for information matching for purposes such as detecting fraud, tax evasion and crime, or preventing and detecting administrative errors to ensure the correct entitlements are paid.
But Edwards said a review into the provisions has found that 22 of these provisions do not deliver their intended benefits, and many agencies have no active plans to use the majority of the unused provisions.
“I am concerned these exceptional powers have been sought by officials, agreed to by Ministers, enacted by parliament and then never used. It shows up a weakness in the system and demonstrates the importance of having robust policy development procedures in advance of enacting such provisions,” he said.
“These examples underscore the importance of a rigorous and disciplined policy process. Given the considerable resources involved in enacting provisions, parliament should expect officials to conduct full due diligence to support future claims that privacy overrides are necessary to achieve public policy objectives.”
Legislation that currently has information matching provisions covers areas including accident insurance, immigration, customs and excise, social security and tax administration.
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