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Privacy across all departments needs checking

24 August 2012

Privacy across all departments needs checking

A review of how government departments protect New Zealanders’ privacy is needed after damning reports into ACC yesterday revealed wider concerns, the Green Party said today.

“People don’t have a choice about giving their information to the state so the Government has an absolute duty to make sure it is kept safe,” Green Party income support spokesperson Jan Logie said.

“I urge State Services Commissioner Ian Rennie to go ahead with a government wide stocktake but the Government should require it to happen and strengthen privacy rules across all government departments.”

Australian privacy commissioner Malcolm Crompton, who worked on the report into how ACC managed to release the personal details of thousands of claimants, said it could have happened at ‘most organisations’.

Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff said the public needed to be able to trust agencies with their information.

“Every New Zealander’s personal details are held by several government departments and agencies. People need to be confident that their information isn’t going to get into the wrong hands and it’s the government’s job to ensure it is safe,” Ms Logie said.

“All government departments ought to have a consistent level of privacy. ACC is not the only one dealing with intensely private information.”

“We know there are problems with privacy at the Ministry of Social Development and the minister in charge, Paula Bennett, is not setting a good example by flagrantly breaching the privacy of beneficiaries, something she says she might do again. This is a Minister who has access to hundreds of thousands of personal files.

“Privacy doesn’t begin and end in departments, ministers must also respect it and set an example. The example MSD has from its minister is to treat its claimants with contempt.

“The problems at ACC arose because its focus on saving money meant it lost sight of caring for claimants. The same thing is happening at MSD.”

The National Beneficiary Advisory Consultancy Group has revealed that the Government is going to change the policy around beneficiary fraud investigations. Investigators will be able to question current and former landlords, employers, children’s schools and day-care, banks and others before talking to the beneficiary.

“This means private information will be discussed with a variety of parties when a conversation with the beneficiary in many cases would resolve the situation.

“Many allegations are maliciously made and only a small proportion, 4.24 percent of all allegations, end up being prosecuted.”

ends

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