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More privacy authorities online than ever Blair Stewart
17 August 2017

Cuviers Regulus

When the Office of the Privacy Commissioner launched its website in 1995, very few government organisations in New Zealand had an online presence. The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Te Ara, tells us that the first New Zealand website was created only in 1992.

Te Ara illustrates this further:

In the mid-1990s computers were still a luxury item, and in 1995 only 21.7 percent of households had one. One survey claimed in 1996 that only one in five New Zealanders had heard of the internet. Those who accessed it were overwhelmingly male and aged 20 to 39.

But things changed fast. As it became easier to get online and more affordable to stay there, the number of sites increased. In 1994, the total of .nz registered sites was 272. The number jumped to 701 in 1995 and then to 3,627 in 1996.

That means our office was not only in the vanguard of New Zealand organisation’s going online in the mid-1990s but it was something of a rarity internationally. While no statistics are available for data protection and privacy authority websites in those days, it is known anecdotally that websites were not a common tool for these authorities until quite a few years later.

ICDPPC census

Our office in its current role as Secretariat of the International Conference of Data Protection Commissioners (ICDPPC), this year conducted a census of international data protection and privacy authorities. The detailed results of the ICDPPC Census will be released in September in Hong Kong at the next annual ICDPPC gathering but the Secretariat has released some results already.

One unsurprising result is that in 2017, all privacy authorities now have a website. But what is certainly of greater interest is the level of social media engagement. As a reader, you’ll know that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner maintains this blog which it started in May 2014. Regular readers may have read our Does your office blog post which highlights some of the blogging efforts made by our overseas counterparts.

One-stop shop

The ICDPPC Secretariat has now published an online directory of links to all these websites and the social media channels used, as revealed by the ICDPPC Census. This gives a handy ‘one-stop shop’ if you want to look up information published online by our overseas data protection and privacy colleagues.

As you’ll see, not all data protection and privacy authorities have a social media presence. As with the adoption of websites in the 1990s and early 2000s, it will also take time for many authorities to embrace social media as a communications tool. Those that already have a social media presence tend to use Twitter and Facebook, and some also use YouTube and LinkedIn.

Meanwhile, our office is something of an outlier in having an Instagram account. Are we in the vanguard of a new wave of regulatory activity to be conducted by photo-sharing? Only time will tell!

Image credit: Cuvier's Kinglet via John J Audobon's Birds of America.

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