Inter-departmental information sharing

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Credit: NZ Herald

Excuse the wideness of this post, but the Herald have actually done a sterling job here.

Of course, their twist is to whip up some hysteria about Government data matching, but I’ve always found it absurd that people could leave the country while owing the IRD, having a current arrest warrant or being under investigation for Welfare fraud.

That doesn’t stop Nicholas Jones at the Herald from trying to make it sound more dangerous than it is

Millions of pieces of private information about New Zealanders are being shared between state departments – and the Government is planning to vastly increase the number of agencies involved, a Herald investigation has discovered.

The personal details already shared include names, birthdates, incomes, tax numbers, citizenship details, travel plans, ACC claims, home addresses and phone numbers.

Millions of pieces!

Collectively, of course.  I’m not sure Government even holds 10,000 pieces of information on an individual, let alone a million, but that doesn’t suit Nicholas’ spin.

The first information-sharing deal under the new guidelines, which came into effect last week, will mean Kiwis living overseas who haven’t paid taxes, child support or student loan repayments can be tracked by the taxman through the address they give when they renew their passport.

Another factor is concern for the vulnerable, including children. After the death of Rotorua 3-year-old Nia Glassie, Ms Shroff called for the sharing of information about at-risk children, and for “privacy” not to be used as an excuse or obstacle.

Good job too.  I realise there are genuine privacy concerns and worries about abuses by the State, but I’m sick of how scumbags have been hiding behind the privacy law to get away with being criminals, child abusers and dud parents.


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  • mike

    Only people who have something to hide would care who in the Government has access to the information another part of the Government already has. One proviso however, they should only be allowed to access that data if it is done for a legitimate reason, and failure to comply with that should be met with strict penalties… I’ll point to the case about the nurses and other health care workers who got hammered after looking at some x-rays of a patient the other year when they had no legitimate reason to do so.

    • peterwn

      Police, IRD, MSD and most other departments take a very jaundiced view of ‘peeking’ at information on behalf of family, friends etc or out of curiosity, and especially if it is to hinder investigations, defeat the course of justice etc. There is a police officer who ‘whistle blew’ on a superior’s criminal acts (which were proven) being investigated for unlawful information access to help his investigation – seems to be marginal whether his investigation was deemed to be in the course of his duties or not.

    • Deckboy

      More concern to the average smart phone user should be the information gathered, shared and on-sold by thousands of downloaded APs. Scary stuff.Can be used by all sorts of people to your disadvantage, including health insurance co. on claims etc.

    • Phil T Tipp

      Oh that old chestnut. There must surely be an equivalent to Godwin’s Law to describe the immediate dragging out of this drivel, mike.

      One must really be a virgin naïf, or a drooling idiot, if one believes, even for a fleeting moment – that only people who have something to hide would care etc. etc. Your personal data should be private and no one’s fucking business. Especially not that of grasping, greedy politicians.

      The state is stuffed to the gunwales with untrustworthy idiots, greedy little pigs, liars, thieves and of course, spies. This is known. They cannot be trusted.

      A general low IQ threshold in the civil service is actually the greatest threat to your private, personal data however – and they don’t give a fuck about you as an individual, or the concept of privacy in any case. Once you’re in the machine, you’re just grist to the whole awful, stupid mill.

      • mike

        PTT as an NCO in the Army I had access to all the personal information of my soldiers, and if I so desired I could pull up anyone’s info. I didn’t, but I know of a couple of idiots who did… they got racked over the coals for it.

        That’s what needs to occur, the privacy commissioner and his department should monitor access to records, and if they find people accessing info they aren’t allowed to then frag them.

        And as for “that old chestnut” well you pulled a big hot one out there mate, tarring the entire public service with the old “low IQ…they don’t give a fuck about you” BS. I know people in the public service and they are dedicated professionals. Yes there are idiots working there, just like there are idiots everywhere… don’t tar them all with the same brush. Next thing you’ll be saying all cops are corrupt!

        The greatest threat to anyone’s personal information is themselves and FB (and other social media services).

  • OhopeBeachBugger

    Nothing scary about ‘information sharing’, it is precisely what I would expect the government to do.

  • andrew carrot

    No mention of the Police, SIS, Reserve Bank, Treasury, MFAT, or MPI, all of whom rely heavily on shared info. They must be of little interest to the Herald.

  • Polish Pride

    I have big concerns about privacy but…….it doesn’t extend to this. Having worked in IT for several govt departments over the years, I can say that this is long overdue and would result in significant cost savings to the tax payer. Up until know we have nearly every govt dept paying significant sums for systems and infrastructure to house essentially the same information (at a certain level) as is held by all other govt departments. It is simply stupid and should have been consolidated years ago. Role based privileges can determine who gets to see what info about someone.

    • Whanga_Cynic

      Polish, would that it were so! Unfortunately, they are still all keeping their individual databases, systems and infrastructure but are now sharing what is held there. Of course, if there was such a thing as “the Government”, you would only have to give that entity your details and it would then go to all the other “departments” of Government. Ahhhhh, Nirvana.

  • GazzW

    When you click onto the ‘next’ icon and see the reasons why info sharing is required it all seems pretty reasonable to me. Who fucked up on the info channel relevant to Dotcon’s residency?

  • NotLen

    Any individual in NZ that receives any form of assistance from the State (that is not available to all citizens, such as superannuation, education and health) should have every piece of information shared amongst all inter-related departments to ensure there is no fraud, double dipping or non-entitlement.

    The one true way to exclude oneself from the government knowing too much about you is to not have ones snout in the trough.

  • peterwn

    NZ Post has been left out – it has strong ties with the Electoral Commission and Transport agency. NZ Post has a comprehensive database of addresses and uses change of address information to help update electoral rolls etc.

    The Government is introducing a one-stop service, advise the government you are changing address, and it will update all relevant records.

    • Stuarts.burgers

      Peter from what I understand Election Commission is not so happy with NZ Post after more than one c-ck up and have moved away from them a bit looking to do it them selves or for others to do it.

    • Bunswalla

      NZ Post is an SOE, not a govt dept. Don’t think it can share data for that reason.

  • James

    I’m against most information sharing with and by government departments as civil servants can’t be trusted and nor can governments.

    There are a couple of things that they could put in place to make things more acceptable to me:
    Firstly have a central database of names, addresses, dates of birth etc that is undownloadable and can only be accessed by a very core team, law enforcement (with a court order) and by individuals themselves; each person in the database is given a randomised identifier and it is this that is shared. That way the important stuff (the actual data) can be shared but nobody can find out the individual behind.
    Secondly don’t have blanket information sharing but make it a condition for any benefits/grants/loans to allow your information to be shared. And obviously allow access by law enforcement with a court order.

    But blanket information sharing? No thank you.

    • SJ00

      Umm ding dong but if your random identifier is assigned against some actual data (which it needs to be) then people can still get details about someone. The ‘core team’ at the very least will be able to see these details. A random identifier won’t hide the person, its just a way to create a unique ID. Either your data needs to be randomized and not identifiable (essentially useless) or you need the ability to identify the data.

      Countdown have tin foil on special this week, get one of those big rolls, you may need it.

      • James

        The point of the random identifier is that when some monkey from the Ministry of Unessential but Hugely Expensive Services decides to leave their laptop on a train then my actual information is safe. They’ll see that 123412345563476 was fined $4,000 for crimes against fashion (with funds to be used in a union’s slush account) but won’t be able to link 123412345563476 to me. To do that they will require access to the main database.

        As far as the MoEbHES is concerned they have the data that they require – fines issued for crimes against fashion – with data showing whether multiple fines came from the same person.

        • SJ00

          Its still not going to help. No one is going to get the whole master database onto a laptop and even if they got part of the database they need on there, they will need a link table or whatever to identify the person. What point would taking a part of the data home to work on, if they have to address Joe Blogs as 1234155. At some stage there has to be a link between 1234155 and Joe BLogs, you can’t expect people to remember random identifiers so they know who they are working on, do you?

          If everyone is sharing the data, its not one ministry, they will all have copies of the data (or the ability to copy data). And you want data that no one apart from the person whose data it is, unreadable by everyone else? Core team can’t identify who people are, enforcement can with a warranty… Great idea. A giant database that no one can use. Who updates this data that no one can identify who the people are they are updating? You think the person whose data it is should be in charge of updating their own data?

    • mike

      A random unique identification number… very Orwellian of you :-)

      • mike

        What… why would anyone dislike that? Get a sense of humour you sod! :-)

        p.s. The smiley face is a good indicator of piss taking.

  • We have a data sharing arrangement with Australia (Centrelink) obviously, and perfectly reasonable. The only other one is with the Netherlands – but not the UK, or USA?? Curious…

    • Whanga_Cynic

      MSD has a link with the UK pensions office, at least. Don’t know whether it is electronic but it exists.

    • GazzW

      The Netherlands probably need the info to check whether you belong to Greenpeace.

  • DavidW

    There is also a much more benign purpose behind a lot of this. That is to facilitate the interaction of individuals with branches of the state. The standardised personal ID facility does away with every state sector entity setting up identification systems and allows the “prove it once” system to get you working with IRD, Passports, NZ Superannuation, Police, ACC, etc etc. all under one login. Of course if that could be hacked, Mossad could create a plethora of verifiable ID’s for its agents.

  • cows4me

    So they share information do they, could have fooled me. As a dairy farmer I regularly fill out forms that some bureaucracy claims is vital. I’m fucking tired of telling some government department what I tell some other useless bureaucracy. The amount of information they want never ends, I just have the fuckers on now and they don’t like it. I don’t think government departments share information, either they are to fucking lazy or if they did some other shinny arse would be out of a job.

  • Karl

    I don’t understand why link 44 refers to the Netherlands …. unless the graphic has been “borrowed”. But since there is no reference to an original author, it can’t be that.

    • It’s an agreement between the Netherlands and New Zealand to pay national super to each other’s expats so that there is no double dipping but only a top-up if the payment isn’t enough. I think after accounting, one government pays to other the difference.

      Something like that – I’m sure I’m wrong in the detail. Someone might want to correct me.

      • Whanga_Cynic

        Probably right because that’s exactly what they do with the UK, too.

  • Mr_Blobby

    “the Herald have actually done a sterling job here.:

    Looks to me that they have done a cut and paste of something given to them.

    Also a lot of links seem to be missing, like the information sharing with Overseas Police and customs/immigration departments.

  • steve and monique

    During my years as a credit controller for our hospital, there were so many occasions that this would have been a God send. One incident I recall is a non NZ resident being treated by our hospital for about the third time and having already clocked up $64,000 in healthcare and another $60 odd thousand due to be billed, we should not have treated this person who clearly couldn’t pay their expenses. As they weren’t acute, we didn’t have to, which was our monumental cock up. I had been attempting to find this person for years and I thought my last stop would be to phone immigration to advise them of the huge bill. They seemed very casual about the whole thing, I asked them if they realised this person had been an overstayer for nine years and was advised they knew this but couldn’t tell me any more nor could I go into detail about too much and it made the whole thing pointless in the end. Probable outcome is that this leach is still sucking up healthcare dollars which will be written off and we will be footing the bill. At least if we had all the relevant info we may have been able to have them deported to save us a tonne of money, or at the very least, stopped them ever returning by turning them away at the gate..