Four years ago, there was a change to the Privacy Act to reflect a change in the Government’s information sharing framework. The Government made the change in response to recommendations by the Law Commission, as part of the commission’s review of New Zealand’s privacy law.
Part 9A of the Privacy Act now provides a mechanism for government agencies to develop approved information sharing agreements (AISAs). AISAs are a way for government agencies to share information, within defined parameters, with the intention of delivering better public services.
Use of the AISA information sharing framework started slowly. Only four agreements were approved between 2013 and 2016. The most significant of these was the 2015 agreement between six parties to improve the well-being of vulnerable children by agencies working in a coordinated and collaborative way.
But during 2017, the number of AISAs has effectively doubled. Three more have been approved and a fourth, the Gang Intelligence Centre agreement, is in its final stages.
Of the new AISAs to become active, the most significant is the Inland Revenue / Ministry of Social Development agreement which took effect in August this year. This AISA supports public service delivery by the accurate and efficient assessment of tax obligations, and assessing any entitlement to benefits and subsidies.
The use of this single umbrella agreement replaces five information matching programmes and three other information sharing arrangements. The Inland Revenue / Ministry of Social Development AISA reduces the administrative burden of managing multiple agreements and it gives flexibility to deliver additional joined-up services without requiring further legislative changes - but only if those changes are unlikely to have an effect on the privacy implications set out in the agreement.
In comparison, the agreements which AISAs replace were based on a ‘point-to-point’ approach, with very tightly defined purposes - offering little or no ability to adjust scope.
Image credit: Ivory-billed woodpecker via John James Audubon's Birds of America