During the reporting year, we have seen two key trends: increased demand from government and business to use personal information, and continued concern from the public to ensure this information is used appropriately, and kept safe.
In February 2017, the Data Futures Partnership published research from a series of workshops that investigated New Zealanders’ attitudes towards government use of data. The research found (among other things) that people are more comfortable when they know why their data is being collected, who is going to use it and what it will be used for. Further, they were more comfortable if they knew they could see who had data about them and how it was being used.
These approaches, echoed in the structure of the Privacy Act itself, were particularly relevant this year, as more agencies pursued projects that involved large data sets.
Smart use of data has potential for positive impacts, but also carries risks. The positive impacts include more efficient resource allocation, while the risks include encoding biases and large-scale mistakes due to building systems based on flawed assumptions and inaccurate information.
We participated in a significant number of projects involving large data sets. Rather than choose between extracting value from the data and respecting personal privacy, we encouraged agencies to “have it both ways” by incorporating privacy values. Information privacy is built on accuracy and transparency. These values not only build customer trust, they also yield more robust data sets that are better-suited for guiding decision-making.