State will 'know everything about you'

Last updated 05:00 29/01/2014

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Departing privacy commissioner Marie Shroff has warned the state will soon know nearly everything about you, even after you are dead and gone.

Giving her valedictory speech in Wellington yesterday, she also argued for stronger oversight of our spy agencies and bigger legal teeth for the small privacy watchdog.

Shroff said the Government, like Google or Facebook, was increasingly providing "stacking" or wraparound online services that collected vast tranches of digital information.

"There is also a government stack developing, which will share our information and dominate much of our life in the future," she said.

"When we die, the fact is digitally recorded, but while we may be gone we are not digitally forgotten."

Privacy controversies, such as the Government Communications Security Bureau's potentially illegal spying on Kiwis, had made the public far more concerned about personal information, she said.

"The public have woken up to the fact that their information is no longer completely safe."

She also said it was difficult to know what information the GCSB or other overseas intelligence agencies were collecting about New Zealanders, because there were inherently secretive. "The intelligence agencies do need more oversight."

Shroff has been privacy commissioner since 2003, during which time the digital storage and sharing of personal information has exploded.

She has been at the helm during some of the biggest public sector privacy breaches in New Zealand, including the ACC and Ministry of Social Development kiosk breaches of 2012.

Last year, the Government changed the law, giving state agencies more power to share information with one another.

The commissioner's office received 824 privacy complaints last year, most of them concerning the state's mishandling of their information.

Wellington lawyer John Edwards will replace Shroff next month.

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- The Dominion Post

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