New Zealand Law Society - IRD tops personal information request trial

IRD tops personal information request trial

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Government agencies made 11,799 requests for personal information from 10 New Zealand companies between August and October 2015, with the Inland Revenue Department making most requests.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has released a report on its Transparency Reporting Trial, which aims to help the public, policy makers and law makers make decisions about the right balance between surveillance powers and individual privacy.

The 10 companies that contributed to the trial came from the financial services, communicatinos and utilities sectors.

Over the three-month trial period, the participant companies declined 449 requests and complied with 11,349.

The government agencies making the most requests were Inland Revenue (4,670 - 40% of all requests), Police (3,513 - 30%), Ministry of Social Development (3,150 - 27%), Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (99 - 1%), and New Zealand Customs Service (73 - 1%).

The most frequently cited information gathering powers used by government agencies were:

Section 17 of the Tax Administration Act 1994 (4,470 requests);

Section 11 of the Social Security Act 1964 (3,108 requests);

Production orders under section 71 of the Search and Surveillance Act 2012 (962 requests).

The Privacy Commissioner says it is important to acknowledge that companies that comply with information requests are fulfilling an essential corporate duty. It says government agencies rely on this information to carry out a wide range of legitimate actions, such as fraud detection and crime investigation.