A Ministry of Social Development (MSD) policy requiring social service providers to disclose information about all their clients is excessive and inconsistent with the privacy principles, says Privacy Commissioner John Edwards. NGOs around the country are concerned with the new policy as it may deter vulnerable individuals from seeking help.
The Privacy Commissioner’s report, Inquiry into MSD Collection of Client-Level Data from NGOs, examines the privacy impact of the funding contracts. The new contracts make the provision of personal, identifiable, client data a requirement for receiving government funding, with no ability to ‘opt out’.
The Commissioner acknowledged that “no NGO receives government funding as of right, and it is not only legitimate but important that Government takes steps to ensure the efficacy of any programme it funds. It needs good information in order to do so.”
NGOs around New Zealand have multiple concerns around sharing client data and say that it will deter people from receiving necessary help.
President of Māori Woman’s Welfare League Prue Kapua says that This kind of data gathering would be a very good way of almost kind of mounting a case against particular people and that's a worrisome side of it because that's not assisting, that’s about prosecuting.
“People are reluctant to be asking for help for getting involved in programs that could assist them where they’re being asked for all this information that they don’t know what it’s being used for so what we will have is people not getting the help that they need.” Says Kapua.
Privacy Commissioner John Edwards says that there is a real risk that the new arrangement will not only put people at further risk, and increase pressure on the NGOs, the ultimate result could be that those individuals become "invisible" to Government and policy makers,"
Tolley says that I understand his concerns around anonymised data but if were just looking at how effective the services are that would be sufficient but of course were looking for coverage. We want to know that all the people that we'd the services are getting them.