The New Zealand Law Society says the Privacy Act already enables government agencies to verify individuals’ identities for law enforcement purposes and that proposed changes to the Act are not needed.
The Law Society has presented its submission on the Enhancing Identity Verification and Border Processes Legislation Bill to the Law and Order select committee.
The bill addresses recommendations from a government inquiry following the escape of Phillip John Smith/Traynor in 2014 while he was on temporary release from prison.
Law Society spokesperson Katrine Evans has told the select committee that the government inquiry did not identify any barriers in the Privacy Act that prevented information being shared by the relevant agencies.
“The Privacy Act allows agency information sharing via Approved Information Sharing Agreements (AISAs) that incorporate appropriate privacy protections, and it is not clear why this bill should circumvent the AISA framework’s carefully designed checks and balances. The proposed changes are also at odds with the design of the Privacy Act”, she says.
Ms Evans says if Parliament proceeds with the proposed changes rather than requiring agencies to use the AISA mechanism, then some important safeguards need to be added to the bill.
“The bill should ensure greater transparency and public accountability. It is important the public can see what arrangements are in place to share identity information, and can be confident those arrangements are justified,” she says.
Ms Evans says this is particularly important when dealing with highly sensitive identity information such as biometrics – fingerprints, photos and iris-scans – which needs to be handled very carefully.
“The bill should also be amended to require that any future widening of the permitted sharing arrangements is clearly justified and proportionate,” she says.