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Report cover

Joint inquiry by the Independent Police Conduct Authority and the Privacy Commissioner into Police conduct when photographing members of the public

Privacy Police Police power New Zealand

This report finds that a general lack of awareness amongst police of their obligations under the Privacy Act led to officers routinely taking, using and retaining photographs when it is not lawful for them to do so. It also found that thousands of photographs of members of the public have been kept on the mobile phones of individual officers or, if transferred to the Police computer system, not destroyed after there is no longer a legitimate need for them.

The Joint Inquiry was initiated in March 2020 after Wairarapa whānau complained that police officers were photographing their rangatahi in circumstances they felt was unfair or unjustified. Subsequent media coverage led more people to report similar experiences. It became apparent that the issues these incidents raised had much broader application, and the Inquiry considered wider concerns about the way in which photographs or video recordings of members of the public were being taken, used, and retained in a variety of policing contexts.

The Joint Inquiry made it clear that, while police will sometimes have lawful and valid reasons to take photographs, this must be done in a privacy-compliant way. Digital photography can be a powerful policing tool, but as sensitive biometric personal information it must also be collected, used, stored and retained lawfully and safely.

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