9 Mar 2017

Privacy Commissioner due to report back on MSD 'data-for-funding'

4:40 pm on 9 March 2017

The Privacy Commissioner will produce the initial findings of an investigation into new Ministry of Social Development data-sharing contracts in the next few days.

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Social services under the Ministry of Social Development will be required to share client data with the ministry if the Privacy Commissioner rules in the ministry's favour. Photo: 123RF

The contracts, in which the ministry is demanding private client information in exchange for funding, were first used for budgeting advisors, and are expanding to cover all organisations contracted by the ministry from July.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards said several non-government organisations were worried what the requirement would mean for their clients.

"Some have said that they are worried that people who most need their help will choose not to even access it if they know that the ministry is going to get a record of their visit and their engagement," he said

Women's Refuge chief executive Ang Jury said it was not an ideal situation for the refuge but they were not in a position to say no.

"This is not something that we would happily go out and say, 'yes, this is exactly what we want to do'.

"If it is going to happen, our job now is to make sure we get the sort of safeguards built around that information that we need to keep our women and children safe," she said.

The reason MSD had given for the change was that it would allow them to find out, over time, what services were effective.

"The problem we have ... is that I can't draw a line of sight from providing this kind of administrative information and private information through to information that tells you whether services are effective," Social Service Providers national manager Brenda Pilott said.

Dr Edwards said a draft report would be given to the ministry in the next couple of days, and a final report by the end of the month.

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