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Fresh concerns about police access to private data

Paul Brislen, Editor. 28 August 2017, 7:19 am

Police access to private information remains at the forefront with news that officers sought access to a journalist/activist's bank account details without a warrant during an investigation into the source for the "Dirty Politics" book.

During the initial phase of the investigation, in 2015, records showed police investigators had asked for private information about author Nicky Hagar from several businesses including banks, phone companies, ISPs, airlines and electricity companies without first seeking a warrant.

Now, according to the New Zealand Herald, it appears the police also sought information about Martyn Bradbury who runs The Daily Blog website.

Bradbury told the Herald he was unable to secure an extension of credit and "the manner in which the declines occurred just seemed odd".

Bradbury discovered investigators had requested his records claiming to be investigating "computer fraud". He then complained to the Privacy Commissioner, who found the police acted unlawfully.

Investigators have been quoting a section of the Privacy Act that allows organisations holding data to ignore people's privacy if there are "reasonable grounds" to believe it would help "maintenance of the law".

However, Privacy Commissioner John Edwards says police didn't give the bank enough information to make an assessment of whether the request met the definition of "reasonable grounds".

"It is our view the request for your banking records, given their sensitivity, ought to have been placed before a judicial officer for decision on whether it met the grounds for a production order."

The controversial use of the Privacy Act to circumvent requirement for warrants to be issued follows on from an increasing awareness of the role modern technology, such as mobile devices and electronic banking records, plays in police investigations.

Changes to the laws around the intelligence gathering work of the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) to allow both agencies to spy on New Zealanders and to support police actions have raised the public awareness of such activities following legal fallout the Kim Dot Com raid.

UPDATE: NBR has just reposted a thoughful piece from lawyer Rick Shera that clarifies a lot of this and is well worth a read.



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