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New survey scores NZ privacy highly but some work still to be done

Paul Brislen, Editor. 16 October 2019, 7:21 am

New Zealand makes it into the top ten countries in the world for privacy protections but still has some work to do, according to a new survey.

Comparitech, a pro-consumer website focused on the tech sector and its use of private data, assessed privacy protection and the state of surveillance in 47 countries, comparing nations in a number of categories including use of biometrics, CCTV and data retention but also at the legal issues such as privacy laws and enforcement and data sharing capabilities.

New Zealand scored 2.9 out of a possible five points, putting it slightly ahead of Australia but behind both Canada and South Africa. 

The strongest countries were all part of the EU block which, with its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regime boasts some of the most supportive legal structures for individual rights. Ireland leads the world with the strongest protections, scoring 3.2 out of a possible five points.

However, not all EU countries enact the laws in the same way, with Italy, Hungary, Slovenia and Germany all scoring below New Zealand's ranking.

"Italy fails to uphold privacy protections in a number of areas.This includes:

  • An ID card that contains biometrics
  • Extensive use of biometrics, including facial recognition in airports, is causing concern among citizens
  • Data-sharing agreements as part of the Treaty of Prüm and Schengen Agreement
  • Extensive CCTV use (including with facial recognition)
  • Lengthy data retention periods (six years for internet and telephone traffic data)
  • It lacks freedom of the press," says the report which can be found here.

Bottom of the global chart on privacy is China (1.8), with Russia not far behind on 2.1. Mandatory ID cards, a lack of clear guidelines about the implementation of privacy laws and China's heavy, and growing, reliance on biometric surveillance are just some of the reasons given for China's low score.

India, Thailand and Malaysia round out the bottom grouping.

New Zealand is currently reviewing its privacy laws and a new Privacy Bill is working its way through parliament. Minister of Justice Andrew Little told Techblog that the New Zealand approach differs from that of the EU in that we don't have a putative regime (the big stick model) but rather would work with companies to ensure their data protection is up to date.

How that shakes out in the real world will become clearer as the bill passes into law - expected in the next few months.


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