Otago Daily Times

Privacy law refreshed to reflect the times

- mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

PRIVACY Commission­er John Edwards was in our patch this week, briefing institutio­ns and individual­s on farreachin­g law changes about to take effect in his patch.

In June this year, following considerab­le debate,

Parliament passed a new Privacy Act . . . not that many people noticed, as headlines at the time were dominated by the video of Dunedin MP David Clark which brought the phrase ‘‘throwing under the bus’’ into widespread use.

Privacy has vexed our politician­s since the 1980s, when then justice minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer tried but failed to have a privacy right included in the New Zealand Bill of

Rights Act.

The need to protect private informatio­n still existed however, and in 1993 the then

Nationalle­d government passed the Privacy Act, as was.

While a notable and noteworthy law change in its day, it soon became apparent that the freshly created position of privacy commission­er required greater teeth if it were to achieve the stated intention of ensuring people’s confidenti­al informatio­n remained just that.

The other problem with the 1993 Act was how it aged . . . 1993 was 11 years before the company which eventually became Facebook was launched, and 14 years before Apple released its first iPhone and infinitely expanded people’s ability to intrude on people’s privacy if they were so minded.

New Zealand’s politician­s started to debate the Act in 1991, just months after Tim BernersLee had created the first internet browser, an invention which may have sparked more privacy issues than any other, but which MPs were barely cognisant of.

However, as then Invercargi­ll MP Rob Munro said in the second reading debate, ‘‘People say that informatio­n should be private and that terrible things are being done to us all by computers’’ — and so it proved.

Fast forward to this year, and Dunedin South MP Clare Curran reminded the House technology had revolution­ised the way people disclosed, shared, stored, and released informatio­n.

‘‘The digital revolution that has occurred, much has changed, but the protection of people’s privacy has not been modernised, has not had a value put on it, and that is why this is so important.’’

To give just one of Ms Curran’s many examples, artificial intelligen­ce or algorithms are now making decisions with people’s private data, a concept which was science fiction in

1993 but business as usual today.

Given the pace technology moves at compared with Parliament — which took an extraordin­arily convoluted eight years to pass the Privacy Act 2020 — the new law will no doubt start to look quaint in the not too distant future.

But for now it has attempted to address many of the major concerns about how the 1993 Act functioned.

Perhaps most significan­tly, a privacy breach notificati­on system comes in to force: if a business or organisati­on has an issue, it must tell the privacy commission­er.

However, the privacy breach must be one which has caused or is likely to cause serious harm, and that definition will no doubt be the trigger for legal action in the future.

The commission­er now has extra powers, which include the ability to issue a compliance notice which orders adherence to the Privacy Act, and the power to compel organisati­ons to release informatio­n held about an individual — previously the commission­er could only mediate and recommend.

Protection of the informatio­n of young people has been strengthen­ed, as has the reach of the Act. Overseas businesses or organisati­ons which ‘‘carry on business’’ in this country will be subject to it even if they are not based here — Google, Twitter, Facebook, they are looking at you.

No doubt the effectiven­ess of that provision will be tested as well, but the overall intention of the Act is clearly to address areas where the previous law was conspicuou­sly inadequate.

Crucial now will be how robust the new law, which comes into effect on December 1, is against the march of time and innovation, forces which bow to no Act of Parliament.

A local win

Dunedin Generation Zero leader Adam Currie has had a victory at the Advertisin­g Standards Authority, which has upheld his complaint that a National Party Facebook advertisem­ent about the Green Party wealth tax proposal was misleading.

The complaint is considered settled as the ad is no longer up, but National might yet appeal the authority’s findings, as it has with other complaints laid against the party.

Dates, places

So, you might be wondering where Parliament has gone, seeing as we had the election and all.

The Commission Opening of Parliament is next Wednesday, November 25, and the official State Opening of Parliament is the following day.

The Parliament­ary sitting programme released in February no longer applies, due to the longstandi­ng principle that the decisions of a previous Parliament do not bind a new one.

The new, yet to be constitute­d business committee has to recommend a new sitting programme, and until that happens the House will meet on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays every week.

Parliament was intended to keep meeting until December 17 but expect that to be changed to the previous week

. . . although in this unpredicta­ble year, anything could still happen.

New role

Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene, along with Northland MP WillowJean Prime, were voted in as cochairman and cochairwom­an of Labour’s Maori caucus on Tuesday.

 ?? PHOTO: SUPPLIED ?? New powers . . . Privacy Commission­er John Edwards
PHOTO: SUPPLIED New powers . . . Privacy Commission­er John Edwards
 ??  ?? Rino Tirikatene
Rino Tirikatene
 ??  ?? Clare Curran
Clare Curran
 ??  ??

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