Our lives are increasingly being played out in the digital space. We sign up for online services with banks and Internet providers, and we buy and sell our goods online, amongst many other things.



We spend so much time online, going about our daily lives, because the Internet has made things like banking easier and more convenient than the old systems we used to rely on. However, with this convenience comes new and additional responsibilities to keep our personal information safe.

It is easier than ever for the Government to request customer information from organisations such as banks or Internet service providers, and for these companies to hand over this information.

At the moment, these exchanges happen mostly without consumers knowing because many organisations aren't disclosing what's going on.

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Transparency reporting is a way they can do so. It simply means an organisation reporting on the number of times government agencies asks them to hand over customers' personal information - and how many times that organisation approves or denies these requests.

Without transparency reports we have no way of knowing whether we should be concerned about the number and type of government requests to hand over consumer information.

That's why InternetNZ is calling on organisations to start doing transparency reports.

If more organisations completed transparency reports, the risks associated with information sharing would decrease.

To help them, we've worked with the Privacy Commission to put together some templates for them to use.

Last year the Privacy Commissioner conducted a transparency trial. They found that the ten organisations that were part of their trial received 11,000 requests over three months.

Meanwhile, in Trade Me's 2014 annual transparency report, they noted that the Inland Revenue made requests for information about 44,000+ Trade Me members in one enquiry, which meant that this was reported as only one use of the government's statutory powers.

InternetNZ's Jordan Carter
InternetNZ's Jordan Carter

If nothing else, these numbers demonstrate that we need more clarity around these requests, and to get this clarity more organisations need to complete transparency reports.



The only New Zealand organisation we are aware of, that does transparency reporting really well, is Trade Me. We'd like to see more organisations that hold a lot of consumer information follow their lead. We're calling on Internet service providers, banks and other large software providers to step up to the plate and start their own transparency reporting.



We've chosen to suggest that these types of organisations start doing transparency reporting because they hold so much personal information. Your Internet and phone company has all your GPS data and call records and your bank has your financials. It is powerful information, and you have a right to know what's happening with it.

If more organisations completed transparency reports, the risks associated with information sharing would decrease.

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Last week, InternetNZ launched 'Easy Transparency' - a set of tools and templates that are designed to make it easy for organisations to complete transparency reports.

Transparency reports help to build trust and confidence that people need to live their digital lives. It would be to everyone's benefit if we knew, rather than had to guess, at the volume and type of requests made by the Government.

You can help - you can check out our templates from our website at internetnz.nz, and if you want to help out, consider asking your bank, ISP or other online service provider about what transparency reporting they do - and point them to our resources.