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Vulnerable people to benefit from information sharing

Hon Simon Power
Minister of Justice

16 August 2011 Media Statement

Vulnerable people to benefit from improved information sharing

A bill that improves the sharing of personal information between agencies was introduced to Parliament today by Justice Minister Simon Power.

The Privacy (Information Sharing) Bill responds to the Law Commission’s review of the Privacy Act in regards to information sharing.

Mr Power said the bill aims to improve the rules around the collection, storage, and use of person information while ensuring there are safeguards in place to protect an individual’s right to privacy.

The bill:

• Allows agencies to share personal information at an earlier stage when it is deemed there is a ‘serious’ threat to public health or safety, or to the life or health of an individual. Currently, the threat must also be ‘imminent’ for the information to be shared.
• Inserts a new mechanism into the Privacy Act to allow for the approval of information sharing agreements between agencies. This mechanism will apply only to information sharing for public purposes and may include non-government organisations when they are providing public services on behalf of a public sector agency.
• Sets out the process for drawing up an information-sharing agreement. This requires consultation with the Privacy Commissioner and for the agreement to be approved by Order in Council. The bill will specify the criteria for approval, the matters that need to be covered in the agreements, and general rules for the operation of such agreements including appropriate safeguards, as well as suitable transparency, accountability, and review processes.

Mr Power said the information-sharing aspect of privacy reform was fast-tracked ahead of other privacy work because of its potential to help vulnerable people, including children.

“As the Law Commission put it, information sharing has major benefits in allowing agencies to see all sides of an individual’s case rather than just through their own narrow lens.

“Although agencies are already able to share a great deal of personal information under the Privacy Act, the Act itself is unclear and misunderstood around when and how personal information can be shared."

The bill is also expected to save information-handling costs across government. The Government will respond to the remainder of the Law Commission’s Privacy Act report within the 120 working days allowed.

The issue of mandatory reporting for child abuse is not included in this bill and is being considered as part of the Government’s Green Paper on Vulnerable Children.

The Cabinet paper can be found here.

ENDS

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