Privacy Commissioner to get some teeth

POSTED BY Rick Shera
02 August 2011

posted in l@w.geek.nz

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The release of the final report in the Law Commission's long running privacy law review foreshadows the Privacy Commissioner being given enhanced powers.

The ability to issue compliance notices, require audits and to issue binding rulings would bring the Privacy Commissioner's Office into line with other statutory regulators such as the Financial Markets Authority, the Commerce Commission and the Takeovers Panel. Combine this with a more streamlined jurisdiction, mandatory privacy breach reporting and the ability for broad class representative actions and we've got a much more proactive regime.

With the increased reach and penetration of social media and other online activities, adequate privacy protection must now be front and centre rather than the afterthought it has perhaps been in the past. Combining the "velvet glove" of the Privacy Commissioner's call for privacy by design with a regulatory "iron fist" reserved for those who might continue to flout good privacy practice, recognises this new balance.

I also like the proposals to add a new impersonation offence and to narrow the domestic affairs exemption, both sorely needed in situations where, for example, a jilted partner posts previously private photos or offensive and harmful material. As chair of NetSafe, I know that the team gets a significant number of calls in these situations and, without a statutory provision to point to, it can be difficult to persuade a social media platform host to take the material down (especially if the host is overseas).

On the other side, I think strengthened protection against unlawful surveillance is a good thing and legal protection of anonymity/pseudonymity is worth considering at least. Whilst a right to be anonymous/pseudonymous sounds good in theory, I suspect the days when no-one "knew you were a dog on the internet" are almost past now. Still, there are important free speech reasons for anonymous/pseudonymous discourse so it is worth discussing in my view.

There is a huge amount of detail to digest and any new law will need to be framed and considered carefully to ensure it is proportionate, flexible and does not give rise to unintended consequences. But, I like what I see so far.

POSTED BY Rick Shera
02 August 2011

posted in l@w.geek.nz

VIEWED 3694 TIMES

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