Sole trader privacy concerns linger

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner says it is still talking to the Government about the privacy implications of extending “unique identifiers” to sole traders.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce announced last week that about 1.1 million sole traders, trusts and partnerships would be issued with New Zealand Business Numbers (NZBNs) that would help them identify themselves when dealing with the Government and other businesses.

The 13-digit ID numbers were issued to all companies registered with the Companies Office last year, in a move the Government said would cut red tape and promote e-commerce.

The privacy implications of extending the numbering system to sole traders may be greater than for registered businesses as the numbers would be linked to each trader’s personal name and, in most cases, their home address.

Charles Mabbett, a spokesman for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, indicated it had concerns. “The Office has been involved in ongoing discussions with the Business, Innovation and Employment Ministry about the privacy issues, particularly around sole traders,” he said.

“Our main concerns have been that we believe individuals should be able to conduct business and access services without using an NZBN and that sole traders should be able to maintain control over how information about them is accessed by agencies.”

A spokeswoman for Joyce said individual government agencies could make it compulsory for traders to use their NZBN for transactions with that agency. “Specific criteria would need to be met by each agency before that would occur.”

A searchable online register would link each NZBN to that businesses’ name and address. But in the case of sole traders, it was intended that personal information such as the trader’s name or address would not be publicly available unless the sole trader allowed that, she said.

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 - The Dominion Post


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