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9 February 2012

Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff gave support to the safeguards in the Privacy (Information Sharing) Amendment Bill when it received its first reading in Parliament yesterday.

'This Bill should allow agencies to be clearer about when they can share information in the public interest,' Ms Shroff said. 'Agencies can and should comply with the Privacy Act, and justified information sharing is usually allowed under the law as it stands. But some agencies have been uncertain about whether information can be shared, and this uncertainty isn't helpful - either for the agencies or for the people they serve.

'We don't usually have a choice whether to give government our information. So we have to be able to trust that government agencies are sharing information in an accountable and transparent way, and only when there's a clear need.'

'An increase in government sharing of New Zealanders' information needs to be carefully justified and balanced with strong safeguards. I hope the protections in the Bill will bring more transparency and certainty about what is happening with your information and mine,' said Ms Shroff.

The Bill puts into effect two of the recommendations from the Law Commission's recent review of the Privacy Act.

The first recommendation widens the discretion to disclose personal information when someone is at risk. Currently the risk must be both 'serious' and 'imminent' - the Bill would remove the requirement for imminence.

The second recommendation enables approved information sharing agreements to be made. These agreements will make it easier for information to be shared, with appropriate protections, including:

• setting out considerations that must be taken into account before information sharing agreements are created, including privacy risks
• strengthening the Privacy Commissioner's watchdog role by enabling her to publish her advice to Ministers about proposed agreements
• requiring departments to publicly report on their information sharing activities.

The Government will report to Parliament on the remaining recommendations from the Law Commission's report in March. 'These additional proposals will combine to balance increased sharing with robust protections,' said Ms Shroff.


For more information please contact Cathy Henry on 021 509 735 or 04 474 7610