Privacy Commissioner slaps down Government's big data plan

The Privacy Commssioner has dealt a blow to the Government's data mining plans. Photo: Shane Cowlishaw

It's been a bad few days for the Government's plans to ramp up the collection of personal data.

The Privacy Commissioner John Edwards has released his report into the Ministry of Social Development's (MSDs) demands on NGOs to provide detailed information of clients, and it's not pretty.

Edwards described the plan as "excessive and disproportionate", saying that, while the Government's aim was legitimate, not enough thought had been given to possible unintended consequences.

These could include people choosing to stay away from support services or giving false information, leading to the creation of "invisible" individuals in need, he said.

"There is a real risk that the new arrangement will deter some people who are most in need from seeking support or assistance.

"Not only could that put those people at further risk, and increase pressure on the NGOs, the ultimate result could be that those individuals become "invisible" to Government and policy makers."

Edwards recommended engaging Statistics New Zealand to collect and crunch the data instead as they had experience in anonymising data already.

The report is bad timing for the Government, with Social Development Minister Anne Tolley announcing the day before that a privacy issue had been identified with an online portal used to store personal information.