Did you know 13 – 18 May is Privacy Week?
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Posted May 16, 2019
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The Office of the Privacy Commissioner marks Privacy Week each year to promote privacy awareness and to inform people of their rights under the Privacy Act. It is also to help educate businesses, organisations and agencies of their responsibilities and obligations with personal information.
The theme for Privacy Week 2019 is ‘Protecting privacy is everyone’s responsibility’.
The Privacy Act 1993 is New Zealand’s main privacy law. It mostly governs personal information about individual people, though the Privacy Commissioner also has a wider ability to consider developments or actions that affect personal privacy.
The word ‘privacy’ means different things to different people. For example, a right to privacy - depending on who you talk to - can mean:
- a right to be left alone
- a right to control who sees information about you, or
- a right to make decisions about your personal life without government intervention.
The large number of possible meanings for ‘privacy’ causes confusion.
To make things more difficult still, the value of a right to privacy can vary depending on circumstances, cultural context, time and personal preference.
Despite the difficulties, a common understanding about privacy has emerged, in New Zealand and in many countries overseas. Our laws reflect this common understanding:
- people need to be able to protect information about themselves
- people need the opportunity to withdraw - physically or mentally - from society.
Privacy, as defined by this common understanding, is important to ensure that we feel secure. For instance:
- We become tense when we are constantly under scrutiny.
- We also often define our relationships with people by what information we choose to share with them. So if we are unable to control who knows information about us, we will feel insecure - at least in part because the boundaries of our relationships become uncertain.
- Human beings need security to be able to function normally in their social environment.
So privacy, which supports or creates feelings of security, is an important human right. If we feel secure, we’re more likely to play a full part in society.
However, although privacy is important, it is not absolute. Other important social interests can be more important than privacy in particular circumstances. All privacy laws make allowances for other social interests such as:
- preventing crime
- ensuring safety
- ensuring that courts get information to make their decisions.
To find out more about Privacy Week and privacy in general visit the website of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner here www.privacy.org.nz