Trade Me fields requests for member information from police, Government

Data was sought for inquiries about stolen goods, drugs, laser pointers and potential benefit fraud.

Data was sought for inquiries about stolen goods, drugs, laser pointers and potential benefit fraud.

Do you know who's requesting information about you online?

Trade Me has released its latest Transparency Report, which reveals the number of requests it receives for information about its members, from the police and government departments. The number of requests overall was down from 2133 last year to 2099.

Trade Me head of trust and safety Jon Duffy said some people might be surprised at the extent of information being requested about members.

Police made 1559 requests for information, up from 1508 last year. Most requests were in relation to stolen goods, then non-delivery of items and drug queries.

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Most police inquiries related to members in Wellington, followed by Counties-Manukau.

"If you're conducting criminal activity and using Trade Me as the venue, you're probably nor surprised that the police are interested in your data. But the general public might be surprised at the level of interaction Trade Me has with other agencies," Duffy said.

There were also 541 government inquiries, from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Primary Industries.

Twenty-four of the Ministry of Health's inquiries related to laser pointers.

Trade Me said it had to release information in some cases, such as when the Ministry of Social Development was investigating benefit fraud. 

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But other bodies, such as ACC, did not have the same powers to compel information to be released.

This year, 13 per cent of requests were compulsory.

Duffy said other businesses were subject to the same sort of requests for information - but Trade Me was the "lone voice" with its report.

He said it was just one piece of the puzzle, and if the public was to engage in debate about whether the powers that agencies had to request information was appropriate, they needed the full picture.

That might include data about what banks and insurers were being asked for, he said.

"We produce the Transparency Report because our members have a right to know how their data is requested and why we release it each year. It's the right thing to do.

"We're a bit surprised, and quite disappointed, that we remain the only company in New Zealand issuing a transparency report. We've been urging the Kiwi business community to do this for a long time and had conversations with a number of companies about doing this, but in 2017 nothing's emerged."

Duffy said there were companies that received "a heck of a lot more requests than Trade Me", and New Zealand consumers had a right to know how their data was being shared.

"We know releasing this information is a big decision, especially if businesses are concerned their users may not support the choices being made around their data. We had the same concern too, but we've never looked back."

He said government agencies should also be detailing how, how often and why they requested data from New Zealand businesses. "It cuts both ways," he said.

"And we think there needs to be more scrutiny on the information flows."

 - Stuff


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