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Growing fears about use of personal information

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 08:20 29/11/2012
Marie Shroff
Fairfax NZ
PRIVACY COMMISSIONER: "The link between public trust and responsible stewardship has not been made in the minds of some people."

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Government agencies must raise their game on privacy if they want to retain public trust, the privacy commissioners says.

Commissioner Marie Shroff's annual report shows the public is increasingly suspicious of handing over personal information as complaints reach a record high. In the year to June 30, her office received 1142 complaints, topping a steady rise over the past five years.

The figures correlated with growing public concern about how personal information was being used, she said.

While people had initially embraced digital information sharing, such as on Facebook, privacy scares had led to growing distrust.

Two big breaches at ACC and the Social Development Ministry this year showed some government agencies needed to take digital privacy more seriously to retain public trust.

"The link between public trust and responsible stewardship has not been made in the minds of some people," she said.

In 2012, the most-complained-about organisations were all government agencies, with ACC taking the top spot with 173 complaints.

Earlier this year it was revealed ACC had inadvertently emailed the private details of more than 6700 clients, including 250 who were involved in sexual abuse cases, to claimant Bronwyn Pullar.

The Social Development Ministry was the subject of 60 complaints, the fourth highest. The figures do not include complaints arising from the Work and Income public kiosk breaches last month.

However, the vast majority of complaints were rejected, with only 15 concerning ACC judged to have "substance".

An ACC spokeswoman said good progress was being made to resolve the extensive problems revealed by the Pullar breach.

In 2012, privacy complaints resulted in 62 apologies, 22 rule changes and 20 payouts, mostly of less than $5000.

About half of the complaints were directed at public organisations.

Two major reviews of government privacy are still under way, with both expected before the end of the year.

The second half of the Social Development Ministry review into the public kiosk privacy breach will examine its organisation culture, policies and management.

A separate review commissioned by government chief information officer Colin MacDonald is reviewing public access to all government IT systems.

TOP EIGHT

Complaints to agencies about privacy breaches:

ACC 173

Police 87

Corrections 66

Social Development Ministry 60

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Immigration NZ 33

Inland Revenue 12

Housing NZ 11

Civil Aviation 10

--------------------

Contact Ben Heather
Social Issues reporter
Email: ben.heather@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @BHeatherJourno

- The Dominion Post

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