Transparency reporting

The Herald reports:

A plan to reveal the number of times agencies such as the police request and receive personal data from a range of companies has been applauded by Trade Me.

The auction website and other companies that hand over information – often without a warrant or the knowledge of the customer – could now be asked to provide a record of requests to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC), which will publish a record.

Lawyers, privacy advocates and companies have concerns about the growth in government requests for company records and personal data.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards said businesses increasingly hold a large amount of personal information that can be useful to the government’s law enforcement and national security activities.

“Agencies such as the police, Inland Revenue, the Ministry of Social Development, and a host of others have powers to obtain information from corporations, about individuals, often without the knowledge of those involved,” Mr Edwards said in a speech to an annual gathering of New Zealand’s intelligence community.

“Transparency reporting, publishing reports of how often these requests or demands are made, and how many individuals are affected was initiated by Google, and others such as Facebook, Vodafone [and] Trade Me have followed suit.”

I’m a big fan of transparency reporting. Agencies generally have good reasons for their requests, but reporting on how many are made allows us to see if the numbers are growing – and if so, ask why.

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