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Asia Pacific Dashboard Digest | Notes from the Asia-Pacific region, 30 Sept. 2022 Related reading: Privacy experts talk Amazon, Ring law enforcement concerns

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Kia ora koutou,

Privacy news in New Zealand is currently dominated by criticisms of the privacy practices of the New Zealand police, particularly regarding the way frontline officers collect personal information as part of their intelligence and law enforcement activities.

On 8 Sept., the privacy commissioner and the Independent Police Conduct Authority released their report on a joint inquiry "into police conduct when photographing members of the public." The joint inquiry was a response to complaints from the whānau (family) of Māori young people (rangatahi) who claimed to have had their photographs taken by police in circumstances they felt were unfair and unjustified.

The resulting report was highly critical of police practice, finding there was a general lack of awareness among police officers of their obligations under the Privacy Act, which resulted in the unlawful collection and retention of fingerprints and photographs of young and often vulnerable Māori.

The report also found police could not rely on consent to collect personal information in ways that would otherwise be unlawful or unnecessary. Taking the view that digital photographs and fingerprints were sensitive biometric information on rangatahi, the report recommended that police revise their policy, procedures and training to reflect the real nature of the information, that this information must be collected under a specific statutory authorization or in compliance with the Privacy Act, and that photographs should be taken in accordance with youth-specific protections.

The police responded against some of the report's findings, noting they present a challenge to police carrying out their duties and that photographs are a core part of their processes. It was reported this week that police had already deleted 11,000 files in response to a compliance notice issued by the privacy commissioner last year. This compliance notice related to the practice of collecting photographs and fingerprints of rangatahi in custody, but the more recent report focused on the collection of informal photographs in public. While frontline officers have reportedly ceased the practice in custody, it seems police are still considering their position on the practice in public, despite repeating calls from the privacy commissioner’s office to sort the issues.

In another blow, police were accused this week of using false information to access a network of surveillance cameras when investigating a COVID-19 lockdown breach last year. A media report alleges police falsely reported cars as stolen in order to gain access to automated number plate recognition systems to track a person. This is likely to further undermine public and regulator trust in police and their privacy practices.

We can expect Privacy Commissioner Michael Webster to touch on these developments in his keynote address at the upcoming IAPP ANZ Summit. The program for the summit continues to evolve, with new speakers and topics being announced regularly. Keep an eye on the program and be sure to secure your spot before it sells out.

In the meantime, enjoy the digest, stay safe and be kind.

Ngā mihi.

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