New resources help us see if mass surveillance is happening in NZ

2 August 2016

InternetNZ has launched Easy Transparency, a set of reporting tools that will make it easier for New Zealand organisations to complete transparency reports. These reports will mean New Zealanders will be better able to see how often government agencies are requesting their personal information.

Organisations such as Internet Service Providers and banks routinely collect customers' information as they provide services, and this information can be requested any time by the government. Transparency reports outline these requests and show consumers what kind of information the government has asked for and how much information companies gave.

Chief Executive of InternetNZ, Jordan Cater, says transparency reports are an important part of a healthy democracy as the use of Internet services becomes ever more widespread. They also help companies demonstrate corporate responsibility, by keeping track of requests and actively reporting them to their customers and to the public.

"Transparency reporting is important as it gives the public clarity around government requests for information. Kiwis should be able to find out what information is being shared with the government. With good transparency reporting, independent parties can help the public hold the government to account.

"At the moment so few companies do transparency reports and we have no way of knowing whether existing government requests comply with the Privacy Act, and no way of knowing whether mass surveillance is actually happening in New Zealand."

"We hope these templates make it easier for large businesses to follow the lead of companies like TradeMe and begin to do their own transparency reports," says Carter.

Easy Transparency builds off earlier work by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

John Edwards, the Privacy Commissioner, has welcomed Easy Transparency saying "Transparency reporting is a key tool to building trust with the public, not just for the businesses who report but for Government departments too. It is excellent to see InternetNZ taking the lead here. The Easy Transparency tools mean that the first step to transparency reporting is even simpler."

InternetNZ's transparency reporting templates and supporting information are available on the InternetNZ website and on GitHub where they are available in markdown to make it easy for organisations to incorporate into their existing websites.

"I encourage companies delivering services to New Zealanders to look at these templates and start using them," Carter says.