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Asia Pacific Dashboard Digest | Notes from the Asia-Pacific region, 24 April 2020 Related reading: UN special rapporteur discusses COVID-19 privacy, surveillance

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Kia ora koutou,

On Monday night, New Zealand will relax its national lockdown, permitting more businesses to trade online and more people to return to work if they can follow good hygiene and social distancing rules. For the relaxation of restrictions to be successful and safe, the New Zealand government is pouring time and effort into developing its contact tracing capability. Now, more than ever, the COVID-19 response will directly impact on the privacy of New Zealanders.

We’re not alone here, with countries all over the Asia-Pacific debating the right balance between public safety and privacy risks and considerations. The Australian federal government is calling for all Australians to download the TraceTogether contact tracing app, already in use in Singapore, despite criticism from civil liberties groups. However, even members of Australia’s Parliament, including the Deputy Prime Minister, are refusing to use the app, demanding privacy guarantees.

In New Zealand, meanwhile, Privacy Commissioner John Edwards released a reasoned and compelling opinion on the need to protect individual privacy in these extraordinary times. As always, Edwards takes a careful but pragmatic approach to these issues, stating that “privacy must give way to science, and to the wider public health imperative that our response to this crisis must be driven by evidence…” However, the commissioner offers a sensible set of criteria for getting this right: Will it work? Is it proportional? Can it be reversed when the crisis has passed?

COVID-19 will continue to dominate news and the privacy discourse for many weeks to come, and the IAPP is compiling COVID-19-related privacy developments for the Asia-Pacific into one place, so we don’t have to search for them.

However, for those of you who’d prefer a break from the perils of videoconferencing apps and dystopian debates about government surveillance, there are other things to watch, read and do. Australia will mark Privacy Awareness Week from 4 to 10 May, and the wonderful Anna Johnston is teaming up with the equally wonderful Stephen Wilson to deliver a free webinar on privacy by design — "Putting the D into PbD: Turning Privacy Law into Design Solutions" — during PAW. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner also released some excellent resources for PAW, focusing on the rather timely theme, "Reboot Your Privacy" — something we may all need to do when we emerge from the current crisis.

The Office of the NZ Privacy Commissioner made the difficult decision to postpone Privacy Week originally scheduled from 11 to 15 May, until further notice, but there are other privacy events and activities available to keep us busy. The Auckland and Wellington KnowledgeNet chapter chairs are working hard to set up a virtual KnowledgeNet meeting that will bring us all together, regardless of location. Watch your inboxes for details soon. You can also take this opportunity to train for an IAPP certification, with 2 Black Labs developing an online training offering, and IAPP recently announced that certification exams can now be completed online beginning in May.

I hope that things will look significantly better when I write my next digest intro. Until then, stay safe and stay in touch. Oh, and, enjoy the digest.

Nga mihi nui,

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