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InfoRM Privacy Law Update – May 2014

Home Insights InfoRM Privacy Law Update – May 2014

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Contributed by: Sarah Armstrong and Andrew Butler

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Published on: May 30, 2014

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In this edition of InfoRM:

Government to reform and strengthen privacy law

The Minister of Justice announced on 28 May 2014 that the Government will make significant changes to the Privacy Act 1993 in order to strengthen the protections for individuals’ personal information. The reforms will place the onus on information holders to identify and address risks before they occur.

The decision comes after the New Zealand Law Commission’s four-year privacy review, and its subsequent 2011 report. The report made several recommendations that amounted to a proposal to overhaul and bolster the current privacy regime. The full review can be found here.

The key aspects of the Government’s proposed reform are:

  • a new duty on agencies to report on and notify the Privacy Commissioner of privacy breaches;
  • increased guidance and clarity as to how the privacy laws operate;
  • new offences for breaching the Privacy Act (including impersonating someone to obtain their personal information, and failing to notify breaches), with increased fines of up to $10,000; and
  • a strengthening of the Privacy Commissioner’s powers.

A notable element of the reform package is the enhanced investigative powers of the Privacy Commissioner, including the power to issue compliance notices to agencies, and the authority to order agencies to give personal information to the person it concerns. Compliance notices would be enforced by the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

The Privacy Commissioner has given his support for the proposed reforms, and has stated that the changes would have a positive effect on the protection of individuals’ personal information. The Commissioner emphasised, echoing the Law Commission, that an update was necessary in order for the Privacy Act 1993 to respond to the changing landscape of privacy laws in the digital information era. This follows the changes to Australia’s privacy laws.

The Government intends to hold a technical consultation on the proposed reforms before a Bill is introduced into Parliament.

The Government’s official announcement can be found here, and its Q&A document can be found here.


This publication is intended only to provide a summary of the subject covered. It does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. No person should act in reliance on any statement contained in this publication without first obtaining specific professional advice. If you require any advice or further information on the subject matter of this newsletter, please contact the partner/solicitor in the firm who normally advises you, or alternatively contact one of the partners listed below.

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