Privacy commission complaints rise

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 11:54 02/12/2010

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The privacy commissioner received 978 complaints in the last year - up 172 on the previous year.

Chief areas of concerns were Google's collection of data for Street View and competitions and surveys by New Zealand post. The Commissioner began an inquiry into Google's actions to see if it breached the Privacy Act.

Around 25 per cent of the grievances were closed by settlement or mediation  - avoiding the expense and stress of court battles.

The figures are revealed in the Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff's annual report, to June 2010, released today.

More than 7000 enquires were made by the public seeking advice on privacy, she said.

A public opinion survey also showed ''high levels of concern'' about and risks to personal information on the internet and ''a dramatic rise'' in New Zealanders' use of social networking.

Government agencies have tightened security around the use of portable storage devices - such as USB sticks, the report said.

''There are some additional challenges to privacy at the moment, with moves towards greater information sharing in government,'' the report says. ''This is taking up a lot of our time - we are trying to help public sector agencies find more efficient and cheaper ways of conducting their business while also maintaining privacy and the trust of people they deal with.''

The report also notes there continue to be ''significant health information privacy issues'' around the new National Health IT Plan, shared electronic health records, and governance of national collections of health information and biological material, it said. The IT plan will establish electronic patient records for clinical access.

The commissioner also investigated a complaint about the disclosure of personal information about two beneficiaries by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett. ''As usual with complaints, we encouraged the parties to see whether they could resolve the complaint in a mutually satisfactory way. However, they were unable to do so.''

The commissioner found the complaint had substance and referred to the Director of Human Rights Proceedings.

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- The Dominion Post

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