Privacy watchdog monitors data requests

  • 15/07/2015
Privacy watchdog monitors data requests

By Paul McBeth

New Zealand companies will be asked to keep records of information requests by local law enforcement agencies in a drive to shed light on the extent government entities are seeking personal data.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner John Edwards has been working on a pilot transparency reporting project and wants to expand that to help promote openness and accountability, he said in a speech to the New Zealand Institute of Intelligence Professionals annual conference in Wellington today.

"Transparency reporting has the potential to increase public awareness of the information gathering activities of law enforcement and security agencies and encouraging companies that hold the information to be open with consumers about the limitations of confidentiality, and the ways in which they co-operate with agents of the state," Mr Edwards said in speech notes.

"This year we intend to trial asking companies to keep a standardised record of requests for information from law enforcement agencies and to report this information to us. We will then publish this information."

Transparency reporting was initiated overseas by search engine giant Google after the US Department of Homeland Security relaxed prohibitions on doing so.

That reporting has since been adopted by Microsoft, Facebook and Vodafone, and closer to home, online auction site Trade Me has been publishing government agency information requests for the past two years.

The Privacy Commissioner is working with 14 companies, including telecommunications providers, banks and online platforms, to develop an effective system, and is seeking feedback on the trial.