Fairness and Privacy Working Together

Written by Claire O’Connell

When people find out that much of my role is connected to privacy; it can stop a conversation in its tracks. It is assumed that it is all doom and gloom; only reacting to situations where things have gone wrong. However; that is not the case. 

With Privacy Week (13 -18 May 2019) underway, privacy deserves a moment in the spotlight. Unfortunately, when privacy is in the spotlight, it is usually for the wrong reasons. All too easily, high profile privacy breaches spring to mind. When I think about privacy, I think about being fair and being proactive. 

Fairness and privacy are two concepts that support each other. A sense that privacy is taken seriously by an agency reinforces that customers are dealt with in an impartial manner. As Sir Francis Bacon said, Knowledge is Power. Here at FairWay, promoting processes that make it easy to access personal information ensures that parties can be well informed before starting their dispute resolution process and can participate fully. As a member of the Privacy team, part of my role is to assist in facilitating this access to information. However, the Privacy team are only a small piece of the puzzle. The wider team play a large part in keeping privacy at the centre of dispute resolution.

Privacy in practice

Good privacy practice requires the right people, processes and technology. It is a collaborative effort. It is a culture. It is a way of working across the business. The 12 Information Privacy Principles (IPP) that are outlined in the Privacy Act 1993 are for everyone in an agency to adhere to during their everyday work. This compliments the 2019 theme for privacy week – Protecting privacy is everyone’s responsibility. Privacy shouldn’t be reactive. It shouldn’t be one person’s job. Privacy is proactive and part of the design of every service or process.

Regardless of our particular role, each of us need to take proactive steps everyday to protect our customers privacy by ensuring information is accurate, kept securely and is only used and disclosed where authorised or necessary. Following these principles drives compliance with the Privacy Act, as well as ensuring customers get access to their personal information.

Why privacy matters

Many New Zealanders think of privacy in terms of compliance with the Privacy Act 1993, but protecting privacy is actually far more fundamental than that. The theme of protecting privacy reinforces that privacy is of itself a human right. Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlines that No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence. Following the 12 IPPs is a practical way of agencies giving effect to this right, regardless of the industry the agency works in.

The Privacy Bill 2018 will eventually replace the Privacy Act 1993. The Select Committee reported back on 13 March 2019 and the Bill is currently waiting to have its Second Reading. The purpose of the Bill is to protect an individual’s right to privacy of personal information; as well as ensuring New Zealand is giving effect to its international privacy obligations. As the advances in technology have been vast since 1993, the Privacy Bill also intends to keep pace with how personal information is now created and stored. The IPPs framework has not significantly changed. There are strengthened investigative powers for the Privacy Commissioner, new criminal offences with fines up to $10,000 and the power for Privacy Commissioner to issue compliances notices where a breach of the Act has occurred.

Whilst my role in the Privacy team is about ensuring compliance with the Privacy Act 1993, at its core it is about supporting fairness in the dispute resolution processes that FairWay offers. Empowering customers with their personal information is a fulfilling part of the role.

About the author

Claire is the Assistant Complaints Investigation and Privacy Officer at FairWay. As part of her role, Claire promotes good privacy practices internally and manages Privacy Act requests. 

If you would like to get in touch with Claire, please contact her by email at privacy@fairwayresolution.com