New Zealand Law Society - Privacy Commissioner issues guidance on personal information and transparency reporting

Privacy Commissioner issues guidance on personal information and transparency reporting

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The Privacy Commissioner has issued guidance on releasing personal information to law enforcement agencies and a summary report on transparency reporting. The Office says it is issuing the materials to give guidance on best practice to both requesters and disclosers of personal information for law enforcement purposes.

“A number of different areas of our work have demonstrated the need for better information to be made available to companies and individuals about the circumstances in which personal information can be released and used for law enforcement purposes”, said Privacy Commissioner John Edwards. 

Guidance: releasing personal information to Police and law enforcement agencies

The guidance explains how to establish whether the necessary grounds exist to authorise a disclosure under privacy principle 11, in order to avoid or limit a serious threat to health or safety, or the life or health of an individual, or to avoid prejudice to “the maintenance of the law”.

Recent high profile cases included the Privacy Commissioner’s investigation into Westpac’s disclosure of Nicky Hager’s information to the Police and Martyn Bradbury’s privacy complaint about Police’s request for his banking information. The Police have since revised their standard information request form to improve the consistency of practice.

Transparency Reporting Summary report

The Transparency Reporting Summary report outlines the work by the Privacy Commissioner’s office over the last two years since the first trial in 2015. The report outlines developments in New Zealand and overseas, and introduces a range of resources that are now available to companies.

Mr Edwards says his Office’s transparency reporting trial revealed confusion in the private sector about the lawful basis for law enforcement requests for personal information, as had complaints the Office had dealt with.  

Transparency reporting is public reporting by companies about the personal information requested by and disclosed to government agencies - usually for law enforcement or national security purposes. Transparency reporting encourages companies to adopt good processes for handling government and law enforcement requests for personal information, and gives consumers insights and understanding about how their personal information is used and disclosed by the companies they entrust it to.


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