Privacy Commissioner to host international forum

Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff will host privacy leaders from around the Asia-Pacific, including the United States and Mexico, next week to discuss international data protection issues.

The Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities forum (APPA) would focus on international developments in cross-border protection of data, and how to improve data security.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), one of the world's largest consumer protection authorities, recently joined the forum, along with Mexico.

"Its decision to become a member will immeasurably strengthen the APPA Forum and greatly facilitate the sharing of knowledge and resources between privacy authorities within the region," Ms Shroff said.

"The FTC is active on privacy issues and currently reviewing its approach to privacy protection."

The forum will consider privacy regulation such as FTC action on social networking sites, including Twitter's security practices that left users vulnerable to hackers. Privacy implications relating to direct marketing and credit reporting would also be discussed.

Apec's Cross-Border Privacy Enforcement Arrangement will also meet in New Zealand, on December 6.

Internet giant Google's methods of collecting information prompted an increase in complaints and inquiries to the Privacy Commissioner last financial year, according to the commissioner's annual report.

The 978 complaints were up on 806 the previous year. Inquiries were also up, by 500 to 7151, largely due to Google's actions during the collection of data for Google Street View.

When taking photographs for Street View, Google also collected information about WiFi networks.

It deliberately collected information about the networks themselves, including their names and whether they were secured and signal strength, without telling people.

Google also collected small amounts of information crossing unsecured wireless networks at the time its Street View cars were in range.

The commissioner's office began to investigate in May. The inquiry is not yet complete.

Google said the collection of information from unsecured networks was inadvertent and that it had not used it.

"We are investigating whether Google's actions breached the Privacy Act and how we might prevent this situation from recurring," Ms Shroff said in the annual report.

The matter had also been referred to police because Google's actions could amount to a criminal offence in New Zealand, she said.



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