University of Otago computer security specialist
Associate Prof Hank Wolfe is urging a ''major rethink'' on data
privacy issues, after several controversial developments,
including moves towards greatly increased data sharing by
A New Zealand Herald story published in the Otago
Daily Times last week reported the number of deals to
share the private details of hundreds of thousands of New
Zealanders could increase by more than half, with more than
30 new agreements between government agencies being explored.
Private information already being shared included names,
birth dates, incomes, tax numbers, travel plans and ACC
Prof Wolfe, of the university's information science
department, also took issue with earlier law changes
involving the Government Communications Security Bureau
(GCSB), saying New Zealanders should ''stand tall once again
for freedom and privacy''.
We had previously ''stood tall'' over nuclear ship issues by
refusing to allow atomic-powered and/or armed vessels in our
Kiwis should also make a stand over the proposed increased
data sharing and other threats to personal privacy.
''That's a vast over-reach,'' he said, about the extra
''I don't think it's a good idea.''
Data sharing was already extensive and he was unconvinced by
official claims that even more was needed to protect
youngsters against child abuse.
Everyone agreed children should be protected but this could
be achieved in other ways, he said.
Concern has also been voiced in the community about a series
of blunders by several government agencies involving the
accidental release of private data about clients, including
an email containing the names of 6724 ACC claimants
mistakenly sent by ACC to an Auckland woman in 2011. About
470 of these names were of Dunedin and other Otago people.
Prof Wolfe said the overall situation involving private data
held by government departments ''doesn't inspire any
New Zealand had not yet become a ''surveillance society'' but
there was a strong trend in that direction, including
recently revised legislation that allowed the GCSB to become
involved in domestic monitoring and dealing with external
He said New Zealanders should ask: ''Do we want
that?''Privacy was a basic human right enshrined in Article
12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stated
that no-one ''shall be subjected to arbitrary interference
with his privacy, family, home or correspondence''.
He was also concerned that, under new information-sharing
guidelines, New Zealanders living overseas who had not paid
taxes, child support or student loan repayments could be
tracked when they sought to renew their passports, and tax
letters sent to the address they provided.
This approach was starting to impinge on another basic human
right, that of ''freedom of movement'', including overseas
travel, which was also enshrined in the Universal
Declaration, he said.