New group aims to voice New Zealanders’ privacy concerns

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Privacy Foundation NZ

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Source: – Edward O’Driscoll


Privacy issues aren’t limited to the government and big businesses, and the community needs to have a voice too, a new advocacy group says.

The Privacy Foundation, which was launched today, aims to offer independent, informed and fair public comment on people’s privacy and personal information rights.

It is chaired by former privacy commissioner Marie Shroff, and Auckland University Business School associate professor Gehan Gunasekara will act as deputy chair.

Mr Gunasekara said the foundation would stand outside the system and advocate for people.

“If they [people in the community] have concerns about how the law treats particular type of information, or they feel that they’ve been unfairly treated by the existing laws … they can come to us, and say this is maybe an area that we can make some representations on.”

The Privacy Commission has been supportive of the new venture, but the foundation said it would not hesitate to call it out if there was disagreement, Mr Gunasekara said.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards said it would be healthy to have another group challenging the commission.

He welcomed the new foundation, and said they would have a vital role to play with privacy issues as he was limited to what the Privacy Act told him to do.

“One of the things the Privacy Act tells me to do is to take into account other values in society, which compete with privacy.

“I’m not a privacy advocate or privacy fanatic by any means, so I think there is a role for agencies that want to take a more purist privacy position,” Mr Edwards said.

Community organisations are welcoming the new foundation, as a dispute over a controversial data-for-funding scheme has not been resolved.

The national manager of Social Service Providers, which represents about 200 groups, Brenda Pilott, said it was still calling for the Ministry of Social Development to reconsider its requirement for agencies to hand over clients’ private details to the government.

She said the new privacy group should help with its argument.

“If this foundation’s able to shine a light on that and provide some additional comment and put some further focus on these issues, then I think it’s for the good,” Ms Pilott said.

Ms Pilott said there didn’t seem to be a mechanism for the government to respond to the Privacy Commission’s concerns about the scheme.