New Zealand Law Society - Emergency services to get better access to location information

Emergency services to get better access to location information

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Privacy Commissioner John Edwards has amended the Telecommunications Information Privacy Code to enable emergency services to more quickly locate people at risk of harm who have not made a call to 111.

Mr Edwards says the changes will allow the active collection and sharing of the location of any cellular device where the emergency service provider believes there is a serious risk to the life or health of a person.

He says the previous system was passive, relying on a 111 call, and so did not assist emergency services to actively search for a person who had not made an emergency call. Examples of how the system might be used include locating people who are lost in remote areas, or who are believed to be at risk of harming themselves but who have not made or cannot make an emergency call.

“Having considered the submissions from businesses, civil society and the public, we have included additional safeguards and protections to ensure that the extensions facilitated by this amendment are used as intended,” says Mr Edwards.

“In enabling this change, I have facilitated public safety outcomes in a way that is proportional and reflects the important privacy interests in location information.”

The amendment includes a requirement for emergency service providers to notify individuals that their location information has been actively collected. This will allow affected individuals to challenge the collection of their location information if they believe it to be unnecessary or unlawful.

It also extends the number of agencies who can use the emergency location information system to include New Zealand Search and Rescue and Maritime New Zealand, reflecting the important role these two agencies play in responding to emergencies.

The amendment comes into effect on 7 May 2020.