New Straits Times

NZ privacy watchdog seeks greater power over FB


WELLINGTON: New Zealand’s top privacy enforcer is seeking greater powers to regulate Facebook as the social media giant grapples with a tough new privacy regime in Europe and investigat­ions around the globe over its handling of personal data.

New Zealand Privacy Commission­er John Edwards said he was seeking new enforcemen­t provisions as part of an overhaul of privacy laws now being considered by parliament.

Edwards and Facebook have been at loggerhead­s over whether the tech giant was bound by New Zealand law since March, when Edwards asserted the United States company had broken local rules by refusing a request by a New Zealand citizen to access personal informatio­n held on the accounts of other users.

“What we did with Facebook is issue a legally binding demand and they just ignored and thumbed their nose at it and refused to comply,” Edwards said.

Facebook declined to comment. In March, it said it was disappoint­ed in the decision and that the commission­er had made a “broad and intrusive request for private data”.

Facebook had argued that customers in New Zealand were governed by Irish privacy law, along with most other non-US users.

But, in April, Facebook confirmed that it was changing its terms of service agreements so that its 1.5 billion members in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America would not fall under the European Union’s strict General Data Protection Regulation, which took effect on May 25.

Instead, Facebook now specifies that internatio­nal users are subject to US privacy laws. There are 2.5 million Facebook account holders in New Zealand, according to the privacy commission­er out of a population of around 4.5 million.

The question of how local laws apply to multinatio­nal internet companies with large numbers of customers in scores of countries is an increasing­ly fraught topic as government­s seek greater control on issues ranging from privacy to hate speech.

New Zealand’s privacy laws, created in 1993, are currently being rewritten.

Edwards was expected this week to ask Parliament to grant his office powers similar to that of other regulators, including the ability to take companies to court and seek fines.

He said he was watching the outcome of internatio­nal regulators’ investigat­ions into the scandal involving Facebook and the now-defunct political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, before deciding whether to open his own inquiry.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia