Government pauses on collecting individual client level data from NGOs

Thu 25 May 2017

Social Investment Minister Amy Adams and Minister for Children Anne Tolley have announced the Government will not collect individual client level ...

Social Investment Minister Amy Adams and Minister for Children Anne Tolley have announced the Government will not collect individual client level data (ICLD) from non-government organisations (NGOs) until a new data protection and use policy is in place.

The Beehive media release states:

“The Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki will be writing to providers to advise them their 1 July 2017 contracts will not require the collection of data until the approach has been agreed and suitable IT systems are available. We then intend to write to providers to agree a contract variation by the end of the current financial year.”

The announcement also states that the new stand-alone Social Investment Agency to be launched on 1 July 2017 will be responsible for this work rather than the Ministry of Social Development (MSD). Mrs Tolleys says:

“The Social Investment Agency will lead a Working Group with Statistics New Zealand and NGOs to agree on an approach to increasing the availability of data in a way that is scalable, and builds and maintains trust and confidence. It makes sense for the Social Investment Agency to lead this work as the data we need to collect and analyse will be used by the wider social sector."

The involvement of Statistics New Zealand was one of the four recommendations in the Privacy Commissioner's report which criticised the Government's approach as "excessive and inconsistent with the privacy principles."

The Working Group will provide advice on the collection and use of data from a client and provider perspective, including privacy issues. The Working Group will also oversee ongoing engagement. It will include representatives from Iwi and Pasifika.

An advisory group will provide oversight and lead the work. This will include looking at appropriate security and privacy assessments, identifying and approving risk mitigation, and developing and overseeing engagement with key partners. The advisory group will include a number of agencies, as well as the Government Chief Information Officer, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and independent data consultants.

The joint Ministerial announcement also says "Extensive engagement in this process is important. ... Separate to the Working Group, there will also be opportunities for interviews, workshops and an online forum for key partners."

This announcement follows the report on the client level data privacy breach and the announcement that MSD Deputy Chief Executive Murray Edridge would step aside from duties.

Responses to the announcement

A number of agencies have welcomed the Government's decision to slow down the process including Women's Refuge. The Privacy Commissioner said "I commend this pause in approach. Projects like this have the potential to do a lot of good by measuring and improving the efficacy of social services. However, if they are overly intrusive, they can undermine their own aims by creating situations where people leave out key details or are dissuaded from accessing social services in the first place."

Brenda Pilott, the Chair of ComVoices and National Manager of Social Service Providers Aotearoa, which has been working to address the concerns raised by non-government organisations said "The decision is in line with our recommendation that before any such requirement is included in government contracts with service providers, we need to work through the issues with all the parties involved."


Community Research is hosting a webinar The Community Sector and Collection of Client Level Data on 3 July 2017.

Background information

For further information see these previous NZFVC news stories:

MSD releases report from review of client level data privacy breach

Government announces independent review of client level data IT system

Privacy Commissioner's report criticises MSD collection of individual client level data

Temporary reprieve for sexual violence services on individual client level data

Research project investigates people’s views of data linkage

Consultations on more proposed government agency information sharing

Government continues work on integrated data and "social investment"

Concerns and public meeting on NGOs and provision of individual client level data

ComVoices paper highlights issues with govt requiring individual client level data

MSD to require individual client level data from community agencies


Insight: Data in Exchange for Help, Radio NZ, 25.06.2017

Early MSD security problem ignored, Radio NZ, 07.06.2017

Dame Diane Robertson talks about data being used for the benefit or as a deficient model for Kiwis, CIO, 07.07.2017

Govt u-turn over 'draconian' data grab embarassing - Labour, Radio NZ, 25.05.2017

Government backs down over collecting individuals' data until security confirmed, Stuff, 24.05.2017

New group aims to voice New Zealanders' privacy concerns, Radio NZ, 08.05.2017

Image: iStock