Privacy matters for everyone – here’s why

It’s fantastic to see more coverage of the Government’s drive to collect individualised client data from social services, and that the Privacy Commission will be conducting an investigation into this.

I asked the Associate Minister of Social Development about this back in November. The Minister said my concerns  were just scaremongering.

Just this week I spoke to a provider of services to male survivors of sexual violence. He told how difficult it is for men to seek help for sexual abuse. It’s a topic we hardly ever talk about. The silence is as profound as the shame. His agency is horribly under-funded, trying to create awareness of their existence, build trust and develop services. He told me he often only gets first names and phone numbers when men come in. In practice he’s found it’s necessary to slowly build trust in that way.

It’s tempting to claim that people shouldn’t be afraid about their information being public. We all have something to hide, and when we most need help we probably have the most to hide.

The government’s plans will mean his agency will have to choose to either provide men with the service they need and not get any government funding, or create barriers to service to get the money to develop. It’s lose – lose.

On Monday Bill English said homeless families needing emergency support were often “families who mistrust the system” who have had long interactions with public services. While this is probably an over simplification of homelessness in Auckland he does raise a very real issue. The most marginalised people are the most likely to mistrust trust government. That is why community organisations are so essential to social wellbeing. Community groups and kaupapa Maori organisations are able to walk alongside people without the power of the state hanging over their relationship. Confidentiality is central to good practice in this context.

Please sign our petition to tell the Minister of Social Development they need to protect people’s privacy when accessing social services