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Privacy law changes to strengthen protection

Privacy law changes to strengthen protection

Significant improvements to our nation’s privacy laws will deliver stronger protections for New Zealanders’ personal information, Justice Minister Judith Collins announced today.

The Government had previously signalled its intention to repeal and re-enact the Privacy Act, following a Law Commission report that recommended overhauling and updating the law.

“It’s vital that New Zealanders have confidence in our privacy laws, and that people know their information is in safe hands,” Ms Collins says.

“Our proposals will put strong incentives in place to ensure businesses, government departments and other organisations take privacy seriously.”

Ms Collins says advances in technology since the Privacy Act was enacted in 1993 have dramatically changed how personal information is collected, stored and shared by businesses and government agencies. The reforms will put the onus on information holders to identify and address risks before they occur.

“Large amounts of personal information are now stored online and transmitted digitally – this has benefits, but also poses potential risks. It’s now possible for huge amounts of data to be released in a single privacy breach, potentially affecting large numbers of people,” Ms Collins says.

Key proposals in the reforms include:

Mandatory reporting: Organisations will have to report data breaches to the Privacy Commissioner, and notify affected individuals in serious cases.

New offences and increased fines: Actions such as failing to notify the Commissioner of a privacy breach or impersonating someone to obtain their personal information will be illegal and carry a fine of up to $10,000. Existing maximum fines (for example, for obstructing the Commissioner) will increase from $2,000 to $10,000.

Enhanced powers: The Privacy Commissioner will have new powers, such as the ability to issue compliance notices. The Commissioner’s current power to independently decide to investigate a privacy issue will be enhanced.

Guidance and clarity: The Office of the Privacy Commissioner will provide more guidance about how to comply with privacy laws. Also, technical improvements to the Act will make it clearer and easier to understand.

Ms Collins says the reforms will ensure New Zealand privacy law reflects the digital age and brings us into alignment with our major trading partners.

Recognising the importance of the Privacy Commissioner's role, the Government recently boosted the Office's funding by $7 million over four years as part of Budget 2014.

The Government will conduct targeted technical consultation on details of the proposals before introducing a Bill to Parliament.

ENDS

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