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Current as of 05/12/16 07:39PM NZST
Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Police ask TradeMe for user information

TradeMe received more than 1500 requests for customer information from police in the past year. Photo / TradeMe
TradeMe received more than 1500 requests for customer information from police in the past year. Photo / TradeMe

TradeMe received more than 1500 requests for customer information from police in the past year - as well as a number of approaches from the Security Intelligence Service (SIS).

The company rejected or "pushed back" on 61 (4 per cent) of the 1508 requests from police, an increase from 30 requests in the previous year.

It pushed back on one of the 15 requests received from the SIS.

TradeMe said police often helped it ensure fraudsters were prosecuted, and other information sharing helped keep the public safe.

Most police enquiries related to stolen goods (522), non-delivery (288), drugs (241), and credit card fraud (81). Other requests related to violence, firearms, child exploitation, money laundering and identity theft.

Of New Zealand companies, TradeMe is unusual in its public declaration of such requests for information.

Its 2016 Transparency Report is its fourth, and detailed requests in the year to June 30.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards said TradeMe deserved praise for voluntarily releasing such information.

"We hope that our work and TradeMe's example will encourage more New Zealand companies to explore their own transparency reporting."

Senior lawyers, privacy advocates and companies have concerns about the growth in government requests for company records and personal data.

Instead of seeking a legal order, police have asked companies to hand over the information to assist with the "maintenance of the law"-- requests that carry no legal force but are regularly complied with.

A range of agencies have been citing clauses in the Privacy Act to get people's personal details.

Clauses in Principle 11 allowed personal information to be provided if it was for "the maintenance of the law", "protection of the public revenue", to "prevent or lessen a serious threat" to individuals and similar clauses.

Last year, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) released its own transparency research that revealed nearly 12,000 requests for New Zealanders' personal information were made by Government agencies over three months and to just 10 companies.

The companies came from the financial services, communications and utilities sectors.
They declined only a fraction of the requests for information -- of the 11,799 made, 449 were rejected.

The willingness of New Zealand companies to comply with information requests (96 per cent) was high compared with international companies (63 per cent).

The OPC will repeat the same research this year with a larger number of businesses.
Internet NZ will design reporting templates and tools to make it easier for companies to record such information requests.

In releasing its transparency research last year, the OPC stressed to companies that they do not have to comply with many requests, and law enforcement agencies should make this clear.

Information requests

• Trade Me received 1508 requests for customer information from police in the year to June 30, and declined 61 of these.

• Most enquiries related to stolen goods (522), non-delivery (288), drugs (241), and credit card fraud (81).

- NZ Herald

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