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Data-for-funding move hits Privacy roadblock

The Government’s much-criticised grab for private client data from social service organisations has suffered another defeat after the Privacy Commissioner’s damning report, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni.

“This is a defeat for the Government’s plans to force social organisations to give them private details of clients seeking support in return for funding.

“The Privacy Commissioner has found the Government’s data-for-funding grab to not comply with the Privacy Act and said it could adversely affect our most vulnerable New Zealanders.

“The Commissioner’s inquiry into the Ministry of Social Development’s collection of individual client-level data from social services shows that the data grab has been poorly handled and defies privacy laws.

“The report confirms Labour’s belief that those who are most in need of social services, such as Women’s Refuge, Rape Crisis and Mental Health Services, may be deterred from seeking support. This could have considerable repercussions for individuals, and could result in many people missing the support they need.

“The Privacy Commissioner highlights the need for people accessing social services to be able to opt out of data sharing, without this affecting funding for social organisations.

“The findings reinforce the concerns raised over the last few months by Labour, alongside social services, law experts, and the public.

“Yet the Minister has failed to show appropriate leadership in this matter by ensuring proper consultation. She has ignored expert opinions by already writing data sharing requirements into the contracts of budgeting services.

“The findings of the report throw a huge spanner in the works of the Governments social investment approach, which is supposed to be underpinned by a ‘better’ use of data. The Commissioner clearly states that this current data grab could not be deemed a ‘better’ use of data and could instead deter those in need from seeking support and increase long term costs.

“The Minister of Social Development must heed the warnings and recommendations from the Privacy Commissioner, and change the approach to data collection from social services,” says Carmel Sepuloni.