NZ proposes changes to emergency location services

By Jonathan Nally
Tuesday, 04 February, 2020

NZ proposes changes to emergency location services

The New Zealand Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards, is proposing to extend the Emergency Caller Location Information service, implemented in 2017, to enable emergency services to more quickly locate people at risk of harm but who have not made a call to the 111 emergency phone number.

“I am satisfied that these changes will help our emergency services and search and rescue teams get to people more quickly, save more lives and reduce cost to the taxpayer,” the Commissioner said.

“However, unregulated, the proposed changes could enable the locating of almost any individual in the country at any time. While this is neither our intention nor the intention of the agencies permitted to use the system, the technology required to deliver the extended system could be intrusive if misused.

“For this reason, I want to be quite clear about my expectations in respect of the extensions,” he added.

The extensions, which have been sought by emergency services, would enable the active collection and sharing of the location of any device believed to be in the possession of a person at risk (eg, someone who is lost, kidnapped or intending to harm themselves or others).

The current system relies on the person making a 111 emergency call, and therefore cannot help emergency services to search someone who is at risk but has not made an emergency call.

“I have sought to facilitate better public safety outcomes in a way that is proportional and does not open the door to abuses,” Edwards said.

“We have proposed a set of new limitations and obligations, which build on the boundaries already in place, designed to protect against scope creep and ensure some accountability for the way the new system is used.

“I will review the system from time to time to ensure it is not being misused.”

Members of the public and others can make submissions on the proposals.

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