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More detail needed to support access to Customs information

The New Zealand Law Society believes more details and analysis of the information held by the New Zealand Customs Service is needed to better assess the potential privacy risks and harm posed by proposals to give direct access to Customs databases to enforcement agencies.

The Law Society has released comments it has made to the Customs Service on its Discussion Paper on the Customs and Excise Act 1996 Review.

It says it is not clear that regulations permitting information sharing under Customs legislation are necessary. Provisions in the Privacy Act 1993 regulate the development of information sharing agreements within and between agencies, and no reasons have been given as to why that system is considered inadequate for Customs.

"It appears from the discussion paper that Customs wishes to maintain public trust and confidence, but also wants significantly greater powers to share information with enforcement agencies, particularly the Police," the Law Society says.

"These agencies would presumably welcome direct access to Customs' databases without having to go through the usual legislative or court processes for seeking the information."

The rationale for such information sharing is that to protect New Zealand, government agencies need to understand potential risk through sharing multiple pieces of information to develop a richer picture of risk which will not come from one agency's information system.

"However, without more detail about the information held by Customs, it is difficult to assess the potential privacy risks and harm posed by the proposals," the Law Society says.

"The rationale for agencies having direct access to information held by Customs needs to be supported by more evidence and analysis." 

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Last updated on the 3rd June 2015