Māori have no say over data sovereignty

By Stefan Dimitrof

A new report into Māori data sovereignty is challenging the government’s trend to offshore New Zealand data, saying New Zealand should be investing in local data infrastructure instead.

Data ILG, or the Data Iwi Leaders Group, is challenging assumptions that local services are less secure and less reliable, and wants to see Māori more involved in policy setting and system-level decisions.

Data ILG technician and report co-author, Professor Tahu Kukutai, (Ngāti Tīpā) explained the meaning of offshoring Māori data as the vast amount of Māori data collected by data collection points such as transactions, surveys and services all held by the government.

“The government has always had a cloud-first policy and it has been storing and processing Māori data offshore. That is happening without any proper consultation or engagement, and we think that is a problem.”

Kukutai said the government's current report overstates the benefits and understates the risk, knowing there are data leaks and breaches.

Māori need say over their data

“There are pieces of legislation like the Australian TOLA act (Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment 2018) and the US Cloud Act that pose a risk when Māori data is stored overseas in places like Sydney, even when they are stored onshore using a US-based service provider.”

“The main point we are making is that we should have a say in the decisions in where our data is stored but at the moment those options aren’t even available and having a level of meaningful decision making isn’t available.”

Kukutai said the large issue and the main point of this kaupapa was data sovereignty which included discussing what data could be collected, how it was collected, who it was collected by, how it was used, how it was disseminated and who benefited from it.

“If that’s our data as Māori, we should be the primary beneficiaries of that data and we should also have some authority over it.”