View interactive

Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones is the New Zealand Herald’s education reporter.

Info not safe with Govt: Cunliffe

Almost 100,000 Kiwis have had personal details accidentally released under National, says Labour leader.

Labour leader David Cunliffe said the personal details of almost 100,000 Kiwis had been accidentally released under the National Government. Photo / Getty Images
Labour leader David Cunliffe said the personal details of almost 100,000 Kiwis had been accidentally released under the National Government. Photo / Getty Images

The Government cannot be trusted to keep New Zealanders' private information safe, Labour says.

Calling the broader problem of digital privacy a generational issue, leader and information and communications technology spokesman David Cunliffe said the Government had a terrible record of protecting personal information.

"It will send a chill down the spines of many of those who have had their personal information mistakenly released that the Government is exploring new data sharing agreements."

Mr Cunliffe said the personal details of almost 100,000 Kiwis had been accidentally released under the National Government.

Breaches cited included at ACC, Inland Revenue, the Earthquake Commission and Work & Income.

Yesterday the Herald revealed that the number of deals to share information about hundreds of thousands of Kiwis could increase by more than half, with more than 30 new agreements between agencies being explored.

Information matching is the disclosure of personal information about an individual by one government agency to another.

There are 56 active programmes, some 20 years old. In order to set up such arrangements more easily, the Government has altered the information-sharing provisions of the Privacy Act. Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff's office has given approval to the new provisions and will play a watchdog role over them.

Both Ms Shroff and Justice Minister Judith Collins said they recognised the risks that came with more information sharing, but believed there were adequate safeguards in place.

Ms Collins said the new arrangement would remove uncertainty about how agencies can lawfully share information under the Privacy Act. "An example of where we must improve services is the protection of vulnerable children."

An unscientific Herald online poll yesterday asked how concerned readers were about information sharing between Government departments.

Forty-five per cent were either extremely or somewhat concerned, while 55 per cent were not very or not at all.

Information matching

What information is passed between government agencies?
Information matching is the disclosure of personal information about an individual by one government agency to another. Millions of pieces of private information including names, incomes and home addresses are now shared under 56 active programmes, some of them 20 years old.

So, what has changed?
In order to set up such arrangements, the Government has altered the information-sharing provisions of the Privacy Act. As a result the number of deals to share information about hundreds of thousands of Kiwis could increase by more than half, with over 30 new agreements between agencies being explored (although not all are expected to be completed).

Why is the Government doing this?
Matching data has saved tens of millions of dollars. As an example, the first agreement under the new provisions tracks New Zealanders overseas who have defaulted on taxes, student loan repayments or child support. Another factor is concern for the vulnerable, in particular to share information about at-risk children.

See how Govt departments trade private information here.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n4 at 20 Sep 2014 23:28:33 Processing Time: 476ms