October 18, 2018
Issue 12 2018

Privacy in New Zealand 2018

Personal Preferences, Profiles and Privacy

It’s common knowledge that virtually all online activity is tracked, one way or another.

Your personal data is stored, packaged, sold, combined and re-combined into profiles. Algorithms refine these distributed and granular shapes, and give you with increasing accuracy, what you have indicated you prefer.

You can benefit from data collection. Think of recommendation of videos based on your preferences, aggregated restaurant reviews, discounts at the supermarket for loyalty card users and more.

But, there’s also the stuff you don’t want to share, don’t know you are sharing, or that gets leaked to third parties whose purposes may not serve you well.

You probably believe the digital era and data collection is here to stay, and privacy norms need to suit the era you live in. So, what should be your privacy rights?

What is being done to help you? And, what can you do to help yourself?  

New Zealand context

New Zealand’s privacy law is outdated.

Our current Privacy Act, which regulates the use of personal information, was passed in 1993. To put that in context, that’s just four years after the World Wide Web was invented and 11 years before Facebook was launched. 2011 saw the Law Commission publish a review of the Act with proposals for reform.

Change is in the air.

Currently before Select Committee is a Privacy Bill to repeal and replace the old Act with one fit for modern circumstance. For example, the Bill introduces, as punishable criminal offences, personal data breaches and the giving of false statements to certain authorities in respect of such breaches.

EU data dance

There’s not space here for a comprehensive overview of all foreign privacy laws, but one has been in the news, and it may have an impact on you and New Zealand.

The EU has implemented its General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 (GDPR). This regulation establishes ownership and lawful use, export and import of personal data and includes provisions of liability for significant fines for non-compliance. It’s meant to give people more control of their personal data and better remedies in the event of data breaches.

The EU has a huge population and is a technologically advanced region of the world, so it’s reasonable to assume its stringent regulation of personal data, which are often sent and stored internationally, will have commercial and political repercussions beyond its borders.

In fact, you may have noticed, in recent months, various social media platforms or other services you use, announcing updates to their privacy and data collection policies, specifically so they comply with GDPR by default.

What may be less well known is that maintaining adequate levels of privacy protection in law, to meet EU standards, allows New Zealand a free flow of data and favourable trade status with the geopolitical behemoth. The office of the Privacy Commissioner even tracks New Zealand-EU data protection adequacy reporting.

Staking space in the privacy debate

The proposed changes to New Zealand privacy legislation haven’t progressed without public consultation. Over 170 submissions were made on the Privacy Bill, by internet giants, media corporations, non-profits, concerned individuals etc.

An incomplete summary of perspectives is as follows:

• General support for updates to New Zealand privacy laws to reflect modern circumstance.

• Concern about technological change outpacing current legislative response.

• Arguments that New Zealand should be more (or less) aligned with the EU GDPR.

• Suggestions about the nature of penalties for data breaches.

• Proposals on the extent of provision to be made for online anonymity and data protection.

• Observations on individual or social or commercial needs to be more closely considered.

• Requests for clarity on the parameters of consent to data use (gathering, mining, selling etc.)

• Ethical or moral positions with respect to human and collective rights.

Now what?

How much should we align our legislation with that of other nations or unions?

What is the appropriate balance between national sovereignty and international community?

How much can we rely on legislation to protect us and keep up with technological change?

The answers are affected by what and how much you know. Get yourself clued up when it comes to resources in respect of performance, personal, philosophical and practical aspects of privacy.