In late 2016, the Privacy Commissioner launched the Trusted Sharing Consultancy Service, to offer advice and support to ensure government agencies achieve their aspirations for the coordinated delivery of public services while protecting privacy.
The Consultancy Service has been assisting agencies to address a range of policies that have an information sharing component. There are numerous tools available to achieve privacy-protective information sharing; we offer expert advice on what tool is the most appropriate in the circumstances.
We encourage agencies to seek our input early in the policy development process for maximum benefit and to minimise the risk of being challenged for poor practice further down the track!
If your agency could use our support, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
What do we mean by information sharing?
The Privacy Act is concerned with personal information – information about an identifiable individual. There are many instances where government agencies collect, use and store personal information to deliver public services and carry out their functions. For example: to issue a passport, assess eligibility for a benefit, provide medical treatment and administer fines.
There are also times when agencies share information with each other in order to carry out their functions. For example: a hospital may need to share information with ACC in order to prove that an individual has received medical treatment, the Ministry of Social Development may need to share information with Housing New Zealand to prove that an individual qualifies for housing support.
The Privacy Act anticipates a range of ways that agencies can share information where there is a genuine need to do so. One option is that the individual whose information is to be shared may consent to it being shared with other agencies. We encourage agencies to pursue consent-based sharing wherever possible.
Where consent is not possible or appropriate, other tools, such as using information anonymously, information matches, approved information sharing agreements (AISAs), amendments to existing authorising legislation or privacy codes and principle 11 exceptions within the Privacy Act may be better options.
What kinds of policies have been progressed?
The Consultancy Service works with agencies while policies are still under development.
Policy areas we have advised in include: resource management (in fisheries and forestry), compensation payments, the safety of frontline staff in government offices, gang-related issues, courts information, fire incidents and emergency call response, changes to border processing for travellers, detecting migrant exploitation, tax administration and social investment.
We also offer guidance on the Privacy Act, approved information sharing agreements (AISAs), information sharing and related subjects.
Who can access this service?
If you work in a government or local government agency with policy initiatives underway that involve an element of information sharing, we might be able to help you.
If you are seeking help in drafting a privacy impact assessment, memorandum of understanding, or AISA on your behalf we will direct you to other resources, such as the range of skilled independent privacy consultants available for hire or the Government Chief Privacy Officer.
We are very willing to offer feedback and advice on this kind of work once it has been drafted.
If you are a private agency, we may be able to offer you advice or guidance, but this will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Is there a charge for this service?
Usually this will be a free service. If you need a high level of intensive support within a short timeframe, we may need to hire extra staff to do this and charge this cost back to you. Please discuss your needs with us, if you are unsure.
How can I access the support of the Consultancy Service?
The Consultancy Service is run out of the Office’s policy and technology team. If your agency would like advice on how to adequately address privacy issues raised in your policy work plan, you can speak to one of us on Wellington 04 474 7590, or emailing us at email@example.com.
Image credit: Hawk owl via via John J Audobon's Birds of America.