Privacy Commissioner John Edwards, in his briefing to the incoming minister of justice, has called for urgent reform of privacy legislation saying this is needed to prevent New Zealand falling further behind international standards.
Edwards told the new minister, Andrew Little, that reform of New Zealand’s privacy legislation had failed to keep pace with developments, with recommendations made in a review in 2011 still not reflected in legislation.
“The Law Commission comprehensively reviewed the Privacy Act and made more than 100 recommendations for change in 2011.” Edwards said.
He said the previous government had accepted many of the major proposals, and “drafting of a new Privacy Bill incorporating those recommendations is close to being ready for introduction.” He also proposed, in December 2016, additional reforms “to respond to the rapid changes that have occurred since the 2011 review.”
Meanwhile, he said most privacy laws around the world had been reformed in the last three years or were being reviewed and updated.
“Internationally, the most influential is the European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that comes into force in May 2018 and affects Europe and many of New Zealand’s trading partners,” Edwards said.
“The GDPR standards lift the baseline internationally in response to the challenges to consumers and data protection in the global digital economy.”
He warned that inadequate privacy legislation had the potential the stifle growth in the increasingly digital economy.
“The operation of an innovative and vigorous economy and an efficient government depends on confidence in organisations’ ability to treat personal information appropriately,” he said. “Companies and government agencies have found that inadequate attention to privacy of customer and client data can erode trust and confidence, impede the delivery of essential public services, and wipe out shareholder value.”
Edwards noted that the June 2016 OECD ministerial meeting in Cancun, participating ministers had declared the importance of building and strengthening trust in order to maximise the benefits of the digital economy.
“The declaration included a commitment to promote a general policy of accountability and transparency. Those ministers recognised that trust, privacy and transparency are essential elements of civic and digital engagement,” he said.