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New Zealand's Privacy Good Research Fund Blair Stewart
18 June 2015

research

The Privacy Commissioner has just announced the launch of the Privacy Good Research Fund which makes $75,000 available to support privacy research.

The objective of the fund is to stimulate privacy-related research, public education or awareness raising initiatives. The Commissioner especially welcomes applications that might assist with ‘making privacy easy’ for agencies or individuals or contribute to ‘better public services.

This is an ambitious new initiative for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner but it is not wholly original. It is a concept pinched from Canada. Like competitions to redesign the national flag, this is a good idea migrating from the ‘Frozen North’ to the South Pacific.

I had the privilege, when on secondment in Canada in 2007, to study and be involved in a small way in the Canadian scheme while it was in its relative infancy. I was impressed by the results and insights that the scheme was already delivering and its potential for investing in, and leveraging, the privacy-enhancing efforts of the broader expert community. Effective privacy protection needs the involvement, insights and expertise of many stakeholders and disciplines. It should not simply be left to lawyers and regulators.

Canada's Office of Privacy Commissioner (OPCC) Contributions Program is considered one of the foremost privacy research funding programs in the world. It was created in 2004 to support independent, non-profit research on privacy, further privacy policy development, and promote the protection of personal information in Canada.

For more than 10 years, the OPCC program has funded scores of projects and distributed over $4 million. In 2013, the OPCC published Real Results highlighting how privacy rights had more effectively been protected through innovative research.

In the most recent financial year, OPCC funded nine new independent research and knowledge translation projects on emerging privacy issues. Reflecting the diversity of the topic, and the flexibility of the programme, these funded projects covered issues as different as smart vehicle technology, on-line payday lenders and mental health information.

We have modelled the Privacy Good Research Fund on the OPCC Contributions Program which has been reviewed and fine-tuned several times over the years.

We hope that building on this ‘road tested’ model will give us a flying start for the New Zealand scheme. We look forward enthusiastically to receiving research proposals in this inaugural funding round. The deadline for applications is 21 August.

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