Hon CHRIS TREMAIN (Minister of Internal Affairs)
: I move,
That the Electronic Identity Verification Bill be now read a second time. Firstly, I would like to thank the Hon Nathan Guy for introducing the Electronic Identity Verification Bill when he was the Minister of Internal Affairs. Can I also acknowledge the Government Administration Committee, led by Ruth Dyson, for its work on this particular bill. This is one of two important bills before the House today that support one of the
Government’s key priorities. Our priorities as a Government, as you will all be aware, are, firstly, to responsibly manage the Government’s finances; secondly, to build a more productive and competitive economy; thirdly, to rebuild Christchurch; and, fourthly, to provide better public services.
This bill and the Identity Information Confirmation Bill go to the heart of Better Public Services. The Government is striving to achieve better services within tight financial constraints. To do this we have set 10 key result targets. One of these, for which the Department of Internal Affairs is responsible, is to enable New Zealanders to transact with Government easily in an online environment—
Hon Trevor Mallard: It’s not the time for this sort of speech. If you’re going to have stuff by leave, you’re not going to make speeches like this again.
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: Just for the member across the House, I would just like to point out again that this bill enables New Zealanders to transact with Government easily in an online environment. These two bills enable Government departments, businesses, and other agencies to easily confirm the identity of the people they transact with. This will speed up transactions and reduce paperwork, enabling individuals to obtain services more quickly and easily. The two bills are similar but different, and later this morning we will consider the Identity Information Confirmation Bill, which establishes the igovt identity service.
The Electronic Identity Verification Bill regulates the igovt identity verification service. This service enables individuals to prove who they are online. Individuals prove who they are once when applying to use the service. Those individuals can then use the service to prove who they are to other agencies that are authorised to use the service. The bill supports the wide use of this service to better enable agencies to check individuals’ identity. Most important, it does so in a manner that protects and enhances New Zealand’s ability to control how information is used. As I have said, this bill is at the heart of the Government’s reforms to achieve Better Public Services. In particular, it supports Better Public Services result area 10: that New Zealanders can complete their transactions with Government easily in a digital environment.
The service makes it easier for New Zealanders to complete their transactions with Government, as I have said, online and at a lower cost. The bill enables both Government and the private sector agencies to use the service to reduce their investment and processing costs. Individuals find the service convenient as it will reduce the amount of paperwork and supporting identity documents they must provide when dealing with Government and, importantly, with businesses. Result area 10 is based around a number of key transactions such as applying for motor vehicle licences or renewing a passport. We are aiming to have 70 percent of these commonly used transactions completed online in a digital environment by 2017. The igovt service will contribute significantly to this by streamlining processes for online log-ins when people access services online. By making it easier for people to access online services we will encourage uptake and get closer to that 70 percent mark.
As I have said, the bill is similar to, but different from, another bill that we have coming forward this afternoon. Both bills also ensure that individuals remain in control of their information. People have the choice to join the igovt service and to use it. One of the principles of this bill stresses that agencies using this service should, where practicable, maintain alternative means for individuals to interact with them. This protects both individuals who cannot or do not wish to use the services for various reasons. Submissions to the Government Administration Committee, led by the Hon Ruth Dyson, strongly supported the opt-in nature of this service as a safeguard for individuals. The bill is not about creating a digital national identity card scheme, and that is an important fact to note.
Like the Identity Information Confirmation Bill, this bill has other safeguards to ensure that the service operates securely to protect the privacy of individuals. These include provisions that allow the Privacy Commissioner to review the operation of the service. The Privacy Commissioner can ask for reports on any matter that she considers relevant. This enables the Privacy Commissioner to monitor the service proactively rather than being able to deal with the complaints only when a problem has occurred.
For businesses, I anticipate that the bill will be central to help meet customer due diligence requirements under the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009. From mid-2013 banks and other financial institutions will be required to undertake more extensive checks to know who their customers are. This bill provides a new, innovative tool for businesses to use, subject to their being authorised to use the service.
While the bill enhances customer and business convenience, contributing significantly to better public services, it will also help to combat identify fraud and crime in New Zealand. The bill does this by requiring individuals to be subject to a passport-strength verification process, supported by information-matching processes and checks against authoritative records. Agencies can therefore rely on the fact that the identity a person is claiming is indeed his or her identity. The bill makes it harder for identity fraudsters and will help Government agencies and businesses fight this increasing problem. These policy underpinnings reinforce the Government’s objectives. The bill enables an individual’s identity information to be used in a manner that is good for the Government, good for business, and, most important, good for New Zealanders.
I want to highlight some of the significant changes that the Hon Ruth Dyson has led through the committee, and which the Government supports. The changes include providing higher penalties for organisations that commit offences under the legislation. I understand that the committee considered that this change was necessary to create a sufficient deterrent for organisations from committing offences and to provide appropriate punishment to those that do so. The committee has recommended creating a regulation-making power to specify the duration for which the Department of Internal Affairs can retain personal information if an individual no longer uses the service. Setting periods under regulation will involve a careful balancing act. On one hand, the service has legitimate needs to store information, even if an individual no longer uses the services. For instance, the photograph of an individual could be used to detect someone trying to use the service in the future using a fake or stolen identity. On the other hand, individuals have a right to privacy, including the ability to be forgotten when they opt out of services.
Another significant proposed change from the committee was to limit law enforcement access to an individual’s record of usage history. This is a record of an individual’s interactions with agencies using the service, but it does not contain any information about the transactions that the individual has undertaken. A law enforcement agency may require access to an individual’s usage history record to investigate and prosecute offences under the legislation.
Hon Trevor Mallard: This is pathetic.
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: The committee decided it was appropriate to more tightly control law enforcement access to this information—that is the committee, Mr Mallard not the Government, and we are supporting that. Law enforcement agencies will require a search warrant to initiate a request for access, or the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs may provide access to law enforcement agencies in reporting a suspected offence against the legislation. The committee recommended a number of other important changes. The changes would clarify the legal effect of using the services. Other new provisions will enhance transparency of the service by requiring
the proactive publication of reports and technical standards. The publication of those reports would be subject to information being withheld in line with the Official Information Act and to protect the security or integrity of the service.
I appreciate the consideration that members of the Government Administration Committee gave to the bill and I appreciate the useful submissions made by members of the public. Once again I acknowledge the Hon Ruth Dyson’s leadership. I was particularly pleased to see that the Privacy Commissioner was strongly in favour of the bill. I intend to put forward a Supplementary Order Paper when the bill is considered by the Committee of the whole House to address a minor technical matter. Clause 61 protects officials and their agents from liability in certain circumstances. Under clauses 46 and 47 other people may undertake functions under delegation or agreement with the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs. They should also be protected from liability when legitimately performing that work. At present the wording of clause 61 does not expressly refer to the people performing functions under clauses 46 and 47. The Supplementary Order Paper will make this clear. This bill represents a significant shift in supporting the way New Zealanders can complete their online transactions and enables individuals’ information to be better used by the Government and the private sector. I commend this bill to the House.
Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills)
: Can I first of all thank the member who has just resumed his seat, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Chris Tremain, in whose name the Electronic Identity Verification Bill is before the House, and say that I appreciate the comments he made in relation to our select committee work. The Government Administration Committee worked pretty rigorously on what is quite a small bill, but one that we thought was really important.
But I am disappointed that he chose to politicise this bill, given the fact that our select committee worked so hard together, regardless of which of the three parties we represented, on that bill.
Hon Chris Tremain: I didn’t politicise it. I just said that it was one of the key priorities of the Government.
Hon RUTH DYSON: Well, the Minister just got up and read his speech. Perhaps he might have considered reading it prior to that, because then I am sure that he would have detected how overly political he had made an issue that was not politicised at all throughout the select committee process.
I want to also acknowledge the leadership of our entire select committee, which broke new ground in the processing of this bill. We decided that we would not just put an ad in the major dailies, calling for submissions; we would leap forward into the current century—well ahead of the rest of Parliament, I have to say. Despite the best efforts of some of our advisers to the committee, and even to the concern of the Clerk’s Office, we decided we would advertise this bill electronically, so that people could go on the internet and find out that we were calling for submissions. It was great to break new ground in that way. We did it within the existing budget, and we thought that it was a good process for Parliament to go through.
So it was with some excitement that I saw that InternetNZ was appearing before the select committee as one of the 12 submitters who put in a submission on this bill. I asked InternetNZ where it had heard about the calling for submissions on this bill, and I expected it to say that it had read it through this groundbreaking measure we had made when calling for submissions. InternetNZ said that it had read it on the regular Clerk’s page of the Parliament website. So it was a great disappointment to me, because—
Chris Auchinvole: It’s a start.
Hon RUTH DYSON: Well, it was a great disappointment to me that despite this huge leap forward, no submitters had responded to it in the way that we had hoped.
InternetNZ gave us a very, very helpful submission, actually, as did the Privacy Commissioner, as the Minister mentioned in his speech. We got only 12 submissions, but it is a fairly specific bill, and it does achieve a lot. It allows people to verify their identity online and across different Government departments and agencies, and, clearly, that is important.
The primary concern, of course, is that of identity theft. We do not want people to be able to use that access to represent themselves as another person, but the reality is that that was possible prior to internet access being available. We have seen some pretty distressing cases of that in recent times where people have represented themselves as being somebody else. People are actually more anxious about an increased ability of identity fraud to occur under this system than they were under our traditional systems. The reality is that that is not the case, but I think it was important that through this process we also tried to deal with that perception and made sure that the process of protecting the system was rigorous.
The Minister went through the number of changes that we made. I am sorry that I had not been alerted in advance to the change that the Minister noted as a Supplementary Order Paper. I had not picked that up. I have been at a select committee this morning. I will have a look at that, but I am sure that if it is exactly as he outlined, it should not be a problem for us to support it.
We also considered in our select committee the changes that are outlined in the bill. It caused me some reflection as to why, in such a small bill that was quite straightforward and one that has quite a lot of overlap with the Identity Information Confirmation Bill which will be considered later in the day, and which was looked at by the previous Government Administration Committee, there were still so many areas that needed amendment. I would recommend to the Minister that he give further reflection to this. I do not think that for a small bill—one that does not have any political edge to it at all, particularly—we should have had to make so many changes before we were confident that it met the standards that we considered appropriate as a select committee. I will just leave that with the Minister for further reflection, because I do not think it actually should be the case.
I look forward to the progress of this bill. It has been a pleasure for the select committee to work on, and I want to acknowledge all the members of the select committee, who put a lot of effort into it—nobody dozed off at any time at all during the select committee, which was very fortunate because it did require some rigour—Mr Auchinvole, who kept us all on our toes, from the National Party side, Gareth Hughes representing the Green Party, and my colleague Trevor Mallard. The other thanks that I would like to give before I conclude are to the officials. We did have, as I say, a number of amendments that were made, and they worked really hard and really diligently, and they paid close attention to the points that the committee members made. We have reported the bill back and I think we are now happy to progress it in a much better state than it came to us in.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National)
: I too would like to express support for this particular bill, the Electronic Identity Verification Bill, but also comment on the progress of the Government Administration Committee, which handled this particular bill. It was a pleasure to be part of that, but I think the chair of the committee the Hon Ruth Dyson, who has just spoken, is being a little coy and a little modest over her part in the whole process. It was inspired chairmanship. Indeed, I would concur with her remarks that there was full involvement on the part of all members of the committee. I have always enjoyed committee work, but particularly where you get a mix of youth and vigour, and experience and wisdom, and a fair amount of opinion. Trevor Mallard provided considerable guidance, I suppose, in the way these processes can emerge and
be corrected, and Gareth Hughes indeed pursued the point of regulations not impacting on private privilege and that sort of thing.
I think one of the most interesting parts of all was the response of the officials, who took our work very seriously and provided information very thoroughly. The only disagreement I really have with the Hon Ruth Dyson was to suggest that we should have less to do. The whole purpose of a committee, to my mind, is to shape a bill, to give it flavour, and to get it right, and we certainly had that opportunity. But from the very beginning—and the bill has had quite an extended life to get it to where it is at the moment—it has been well thought of.
I was just reading the regulatory impact statement, which is quite an interesting piece of work, and it says: “The enactment of the legislation will preserve the ongoing integrity of the service and will maximise the efficiencies that are expected from its full implementation and use, both for the government and for the public.” I think that is one of the principal parts of this particular bill. It is not for the Government in isolation, it is for the public to use in conjunction with Government services.
The regulatory impact statement continues and says: “This is a classic instance of regulation providing certainty for the provision and operation of a government service, therefore maximising the benefits that are expected to result both for the public and for government.” So it is a really good match—it is a really good match.
I know one of the things that particularly appealed to me was that much of our lives, from a regulatory point of view, are paper-driven. As a JP as well as an MP, I am familiar with phone calls from people who have to get documents ready, be it for passport applications, immigration purposes, or any of the myriad of things where we connect with Government. Very often, particularly in the case of immigration—I know we are working on that as part of the improvements to the Public Service system—it is a paper-driven policy arrangement, so you have a need to verify documents.
People in a rural situation—and when I talk about a rural situation, I often mean people who live, say, at Ōtira and have a long way to come before they can get to Greymouth or a centre of government—have to come and have documents copied, and this can put them to considerable expense and considerable time constraints. So it is quite good to have a system where we will be able to have an identity verification system through electronic means.
One of the features that we did take particular note of at the select committee is that we have introduced higher penalties for organisations that commit offences under the bill, in order to create a sufficient deterrent and appropriate punishment. I would commend those changes to Parliament, because I have been in a situation where my own identity information, as a corporate person, a company, has been sold by the agency that held that information. It just sold the whole file to people who were peddling shares. I used to get calls from New York, very persistent people, who would say that I was one of the biggest dealers in New Zealand. I would say: “Honestly, you have got the wrong guy.” There had been confusion in the records—the records that the agency sold were not even correct. But it resulted in a huge invasion of privacy.
So when we looked at the costs associated with abusing that information or selling it, it really was not going to be a very expensive exercise. The penalties were not very severe. And so we got advice on that, and we have certainly lifted the penalties so that people would have to think several times before they engaged. That, I think, has closed it off, and certainly it will make it a very expensive exercise if people do try to commit offences.
In addition, the regulation-making power to specify the duration for which the Department of Internal Affairs can retain personal information if an individual no longer uses the service was another recommendation that we put forward. If people have
ceased to use that service, we do not want the information at risk. By the same token, you do not want to get rid of it too quickly, otherwise fraud can continue, and you have not got the records to check it back. So we have made tighter controls, as a suggestion, on that.
There is an amount of other information that I am sure other members of the committee will bring to the attention of Parliament, but it was a very pleasantly non-partisan, non-political bill, with a lot of involvement on the part of all members of the committee. It is a ripper of a little bill, a good one, and it will be useful. Thank you very much.
CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South)
: I did not sit on the Government Administration Committee for this bill, the Electronic Identity Verification Bill, so I cannot comment on the amount of discussion that went on, and no doubt my colleague who has yet to speak will have some things to say about that. I have got a few things to say about the issues that surround what this bill represents. We exist in a digital age, in the era of the internet; almost everything that people are doing in their lives has something to do with the internet. Usage of the internet in our country, as in every other country, is going up. It is absolutely critical that we get legislation and regulation in place to enable transactions, and to enable all kinds of manners of things to happen via the internet in a way that takes into account privacy issues but also enables people to have access to the things that they need to have access to.
We all support this bill. I do not know if I would describe it as a “little ripper of a bill” as Chris Auchinvole did, but it does seem to me, I have to say, that going through it there have been an awful lot of changes made to it since it went to the select committee. I want to make a couple of comments. This is essentially about a balance. It is about getting the balance right between, as InternetNZ said in its submission, efficient administration and the protection of privacy information. If we cannot get this stuff right, then how can we expect the rest of the country, the rest of the population, and the private sector to get it right? It seems to me that we are a bit behind the eight ball in much of our approach to legislation, to the regulatory environment, to the reality of how the private sector is operating out there, and to the behaviours of people in their daily lives, how they access the internet, and what they are doing on the internet. It really concerns me that probably the vast majority of members of Parliament in the New Zealand Parliament really do not have a clue about the importance of the internet in our lives. We pay lip-service to it, but we really do not have a clue. This was evidenced in the last couple of years with all the debate around copyright and people’s general ignorance of what copyright actually means on the internet, what the actual behaviours of people are in the population, and why there is such a degree of illegal online downloading going on.
The two things that I want to say are that it is absolutely critical that this remains an optional system. Although this is the age of the internet, and, I think, something like 86 percent of New Zealanders are on the internet, there is still a proportion of New Zealanders who do not and cannot access the internet. There is a growing digital divide in this country. I certainly note that one of the submitters—I think it was actually the Dunedin community law centre—gave a very good submission around how important it was that the individual’s use of this service remains optional, because of the fact that there are still people who cannot access the internet. It makes reference to the digital divide. For a Government that is putting in place, as one of its flagship programmes, broadband, and making a great big song and dance about how it is all going to give us all faster, cheaper access to the internet, there is no doubt—and there is actually an inquiry going on at this very moment into this issue, and submitter after submitter is telling us—that we have to be concerned about the digital divide. The fact is that the
lower socio-economic parts of New Zealand are going to receive faster, cheaper broadband at some point way out in the future and that these people—kids growing up in New Zealand—are not getting the same kind of access that other parts of New Zealand are.
Here we are, putting in place a piece of legislation that is essentially about trying to make things more efficient. I think the regulatory impact statement certainly makes reference to the millions of dollars—between $385 million and $527 million—that are going to be saved through this. That is a good thing. But what about the other side of the equation and the number of children who are starting school today and who will be going through school, and maybe even coming out of school, without having had access to this faster, cheaper broadband at school and also in their homes? This is a critical issue for New Zealand, and members on that side of the House have not got their heads around copyright issues. They have not got their heads around the fact that there is a growing digital divide in this country. Ultimately, although there might be a little ripper of a piece of legislation being put in place to try to make it more efficient for people to actually be identified online, so that they can do their business online, the big issue is how many New Zealanders will have the means to access it.
GARETH HUGHES (Green)
: Kia ora, Mr Speaker. Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou. Kia ora. I rise to take a call on the Electronic Identity Verification Bill. I just want to share the love we have seen in the debating chamber this morning about the select committee process. I have got to say that the Government Administration Committee is probably one of the best select committees I have sat on. I want to acknowledge the chair and all the members. I think it was a non-partisan approach to all the issues in a constructive, honest, open, and transparent manner. I would like to acknowledge all the submitters. I know there were only 12 of them, but they did a pretty good job. I also acknowledge the fact that we were able to break a bit of new ground. Advertising online for submissions is not exactly a revolutionary step, but it is one I hope we can see more select committees adopt.
We have heard what the bill does. Essentially, it creates this online passport—a unique online identifier to verify someone’s identity. This is the single log in, and we have had around 400 people using the igovt service. What this bill does is allow that igovt system to take off. It removes the legislative barriers to further adoption, and, hopefully, we will see more Kiwis using it, which is a good thing.
I want to acknowledge the major concern that people in my caucus and some submitters had, which was around privacy. But it was good to see the Government approach, and also I understand Labour had a big role in formulating the policy process before 2008 and towards this, so I acknowledge the role that both parties have played in getting the Privacy Commissioner involved from the get-go. She describes the drafting of the bill as privacy by design. That is the right way to go when you are drafting something as significant and forward-thinking—a bill that is going to have such a big impact over the next 5, 10, or maybe 20 years. So it was good to see the privacy principles at the heart of the bill, and I think we have strengthened that even further.
I would like to acknowledge the changes we saw in the select committee, because I think the members did take an open and constructive approach. We have seen three big changes. The first was around clause 58 and increasing the fines. The bill as drafted took the approach from the passport legislation. I do not know what Act that actually comes under, but the original fines were modelled on the fines for the equivalent passport legislation. What it saw was that an organisation faced a penalty of up to only $250,000. That was not going to act as a deterrent or a disincentive for corporates or organisations abusing this legislation and the powers that this legislation enacts. It is good that the committee has raised it to $1 million. The example I used in the
committee was Thompson and Clark Investigations Ltd, the private spy company that was used by Solid Energy, a State-owned enterprise, to spy on protesters and people who disagreed with its plans. Had this system been operating back in the mid-2000s, I am sure a company such as that could be using the igovt system or the Electronic Identity Verification Service legislative framework to get information and to abuse the system, so it is good that we have increased the penalty to $1 million. I think it will act as a disincentive.
The second big change we saw in the select committee was the requirement for a search warrant to access information. As the bill was originally drafted, pretty much anyone, I guess you could assume, but presumably staff members with the chief executive’s permission, could access people’s files. I do not think that is appropriate. We did hear a number of submissions from InternetNZ and others, which said it should be done with a search warrant. We strongly pushed for that and it is good to see the select committee adopt that. It is going to strengthen the privacy inherent in the bill.
Lastly, we saw with clause 65A the changes to what happens with the data when someone wants to cancel their account. Someone might want to cancel their account for a variety of reasons, and you have also got the challenge that what if that person, a week, a year, or 2 years later, wants to reopen their account? What do you do with that data? Do you delete it permanently? Do you keep it on ice, not able to access it, in case they restart it or in case you need to go through and do, say, a fraud investigation or look for any criminal acts used in the account? A bit of a balance was struck. Basically the ball has been kicked up to the Minister of Internal Affairs’ office, and those decisions are going to be made in regulations. I was pushing, and would have preferred the approach adopted by InternetNZ, which would have had a hard limit on when that data was deleted. But, again, it is a balance, as Clare Curran said, between flexibility and practicality. We look forward to seeing what the Minister is going to decide to do in regulations, but we note that the Privacy Commissioner is going to have a large role. I guess the fourth change, which was not of the magnitude of those three changes, was for the Privacy Commissioner to have a greater role in reporting.
I just want to touch on the points raised by the member Clare Curran around the importance for members of Parliament to get it—maybe I was the token young MP on the committee who knows what Facebook and to Google is. It is critical that we understand—
Hon Trevor Mallard: What?
GARETH HUGHES: Trevor Mallard was not the token youth MP on the committee, for sure. What we know is that in 2012 we cannot not get this stuff. We have seen MPs make embarrassing gaffes in the past. We have seen US congressmen make even more embarrassing gaffes, I would say, with recent legislation debates there. What is crucial is that we get this stuff. The debates we are having now are going to increase in importance over the coming decades. We are facing a huge number of issues that we need to grapple with. It is not just privacy. For example, one concern that I am hearing a lot of anecdotal reports on is potential employers, in a job interview scenario, requiring a Facebook log on from the applicant. It is not just to look at their account to see what pictures are or are not on there; they are actually requiring the personal log in so the potential employer can go behind the scenes, as it were, behind the privacy conditions, and see all the photos or comments. I think that is absolutely outrageous, egregious, and a fundamental breach. But there is no legislation on it and there are no requirements.
We are seeing it with the track wire system, which we have recently seen out of the WikiLeaks cables—the strap four cables—where a private company has been employed by American, Canadian, and British Governments to use public surveillance cameras
and facial recognition software to identify people going to regular tourism sites, in case they could be terrorists. It is good to say that I have just got a whole bunch of questions for written answers back from various Government Ministers in New Zealand, and it is likely that it has never been used in New Zealand, which is very good news.
We have seen with the copyright debate, which Clare Curran touched on, this massive debate going round the world. We are seeing laws thrown out of the US House of Representatives and the Senate—the Protect IP Act and Stop Online Piracy Act laws—because of the massive online protest. It is the first time, I believe, the internet has actually woken up to its political power, and what it has found is that it is significant. Laws to do with the internet cannot just be made top-down from places like this by members, many of whom do not even understand what they are legislating or regulating. In fact, we have got to bring the internet with us. We see that with the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which was recently thrown out of the European Parliament. It is absolutely astounding that this law was thrown out. I was there recently talking to UK conservatives and asking them why even they were voting against it. I think this is a significant issue for New Zealand, because New Zealand seems quite ready to sign up to this deal, which essentially has been drafted by the US, for the US, for its personal interests.
We see it most graphically in New Zealand with the Megaupload case. It was a copyright allegation, and we have seen how the Government responded. In the
New Zealand Herald
today we see that there was US foreign policy thinking behind the New Zealand Government’s actions. We saw the Government, in response to a copyright allegation, bring in 70 policemen—flying them in with helicopters—to arrest someone for a copyright allegation. There is a noted speaker, Cory
Doctorow, who calls it “The war on general purpose computing.” This is what we are in the midst of, and it is going to only increase in velocity over the next few years. These are massive debates, whether it is privacy, spying, or copyright, or the legislation to do with it.
So in summary, we support the intent of this Electronic Identity Verification Bill. We support the drafting. We think it has been significantly improved in the select committee. We note there is going to be economic benefits. One estimate is that $300 million will result from this bill and the igovt system. The crucial thing—the crucial thing—that everyone in this House needs to remember is that this is not an only/or situation. This is not a panacea. This is not about the Government saving money by shutting down offices or providing only telephone services. It is not working for Housing New Zealand Corporation, and it has not worked for the Inland Revenue Department. We need to give people in New Zealand a real option to go to a real office to talk to a real person. I think this legislation will benefit the majority of Kiwis. We know that the majority of us are online, but still, when you look at the Computer Clubhouse estimate, 100,000 families with school-aged kids just do not have computers or the internet at home. There is a digital divide in New Zealand, and especially with our elderly. They will not be using this system. It is important that those services are still provided.
So we look forward to seeing the growth of the system. I think it is going to be pretty powerful in terms of petitions. I think it is outrageous that in 2012 you can get more than 200,000 signatures, which is what the Green Party and the Labour Party have on the State assets bill, but you cannot do it online because there is no unique identifier. This bill, I think, will be the facilitator of that in the future. Good news all around. Kia ora.
KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National)
: Sat sri akaal, Mr Speaker. Before I start my contribution on this bill I would like to acknowledge and thank all the volunteers who are doing the fund-raising for the Cancer Society.
I stand to speak on the second reading of the Electronic Identity Verification Bill. The main aim of the bill is to simplify interaction between individuals and agencies. Any process where identification information is exchanged or shared raises inherent questions about the privacy and security of personal information. When that process includes multiple Government agencies, the stakes are higher. It has been, and continues to be, important to get all the fundamentals of this project right.
The bill ensures that the participating agencies can achieve a high degree of confidence in an individual’s identity by providing the individual with the option of verifying his or her identity by electronic means. The ID is electronic and is made up of up to four pieces of information about the person, which can be used by logging into the service and giving consent for the use of your ID. Instead of providing a document that contains a lot of other information, such as a passport, it reduces the amount of detail about yourself. In order to deter abuse of the service the bill also creates a specific offence and penalties regime relating to the improper use of individual identity information.
The bill allows an individual person’s personal information to be checked against information held on a specified Government register and database, or against the information held by the public sector or private sector agencies that are listed in the regulations. The following details should be given to provide a person’s core uniqueness and to validate personal information: full name, the individual’s sex, and the person’s date of birth. The electronic identity is personal to the individual and cannot be transferred. I fully support the bill and believe it will be a vast improvement in the streamlining of our electronic identities.
DENIS O’ROURKE (NZ First)
: As we know, this bill, the Electronic Identity Verification Bill, is intended to regulate the operation of the Electronic Identity Verification Service to give individuals using the internet the option of using a secure channel to verify their identities and to access services from approved Government and non-Government agencies.
I use the igovt service. I find it a service that is secure, very efficient, very usable, and something that I look forward to using as a means of doing business on the internet, which I need to be secure. I think it is a good facility that should be extended to other users and to other agencies. It is the way of the world. It is what people expect of us today. The provisions of the bill will expand the service to all members of the public and will allow more agencies to use the service to identify their clients. So for those reasons, New Zealand First supports the bill. I do, however, have some comments to make concerning the penalty provisions.
First of all, relating to unauthorised hacking, deleting, and altering of information, in respect of clause 56 New Zealand First approves of the penalty increases for individuals being up to $250,000 or 10 years’ imprisonment, and for organisations being up to $1 million now. The only thing I would have suggested, had I had the opportunity to do so at the appropriate time, would be an addition to clause 58(1)(a), adding “or attempts to access” after the word “accesses”. Similarly, to clause 58(3) I would have added the words “attempts to use” as well. I think it is actually quite important that we cover attempts—even though they may be difficult to prove—to show that we wish to have the widest possible coverage for the penalties concerned. However—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Good idea. It’s not over yet; this is only the second reading.
DENIS O’ROURKE: Exactly. So that is something I would like to consider for the future, and something I would like the House to consider.
With regard to clause 58, concerning accessing information and using information, New Zealand First would like to see higher penalties still. We would like to see an increase in the penalty for a person, from up to 2 years or a $50,000 fine to up to 5 years
or a $200,000 fine. For corporations we would like to see a further increase from $200,000, which for many corporations is actually not a huge sum, to at least $500,000 for the illegal accessing and using of information. I think we need to understand that the possibility of commercial gain from some of these illegal activities is so huge, especially for corporations, that very high penalties are necessary. Of course, it is very important—as the bill does do—to distinguish between corporations and individuals. Organisations that hack information would be doing so for commercial gain. They cannot be imprisoned, so we need to have very high financial penalties. That is why we would like to see further increases. We could also even consider other penalties, such as the deregistration of a company in New Zealand. However, maybe that is going too far. But higher penalties, at least, would be warranted, we believe.
New Zealand First does approve of the definition of “organisation” that has been inserted as a result of the Government Administration Committee’s deliberations. It includes a person—and under the Interpretation Act, of course, that includes a corporation—and it includes partnerships, Government departments, and Crown entities. That is good stuff.
New Zealand First also supports the committee’s recommendation for ensuring that it is necessary to obtain a search warrant as a condition of access to the service’s records of an individual’s usage history. We think that is a well-tried, trusted, and robust procedure and it is the only one, really, that adequately protects individual rights.
In respect of the regulation of information, New Zealand First agrees with the proposed new clause 65A concerning regulations to prescribe the length of time that electronic identity credentials, photographs, records of usage history, status information, and technical codes are retained after their cancellation, revocation, or expiry. We approve also, in particular, of the requirement for the regulations for those purposes to be subject first to the consultation of the Privacy Commissioner.
New Zealand First also approves new clause 65A allowing a different duration to be set in regulations for electronic identity credentials issued to children under 14 years of age, for the reasons stated in the committee’s report—simply, because children’s appearances change dramatically as they age and, generally, they hold fewer identity documents, which can limit the effectiveness of biometric checks. So that is just sensible stuff, as far as we are concerned.
New Zealand First further supports new subclauses (5B) and (5C) of clause 26 in relation to the situation where an individual’s application to amend their information has been refused by the applicable chief executive, by requiring that chief executive to take reasonable steps to indicate that the information recorded in a credential is disputed. That is the very least that we think should be done in those sorts of circumstances.
Overall, New Zealand First supports the provisions of the bill and the select committee’s other recommendations, especially the roles identified for the Privacy Commissioner. We will wish to debate further the issues I have mentioned concerning penalties, the additions of the offence of attempting to access or attempting to use information, and increased penalties for individuals, but especially for corporations, illegally accessing and using information in the way I mentioned previously. Apart from that, New Zealand First is happy to support the bill.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South)
: I want to thank the member who has just spoken on the Electronic Identity Verification Bill, Denis O’Rourke. I think in regard to the attempting question, it is a serious point. I cannot remember it being properly considered at the Government Administration Committee. It sounds like it is worth a look between now and the time the bill reaches the Committee stage, because, as all members have indicated, other than the first part of the introductory
second reading speech on the part of the Minister of Internal Affairs, this has been handled on a multipartisan, non-political basis.
I do want to say that I thank those who were in charge of the bill—I think it might have been Nathan Guy at the time—for their positive approach, for the work of the officials with the select committee, and, I think, for the view that we should try to get things moving forward.
I do want to say to Chris Tremain that when we do have these sessions in the House around legislation that is unanimous—and that is the basis that we have here—and the select committee keeps going because we are all at one on the legislation, it is not helpful to read from Steven Joyce’s prompt sheet the particular Government lines of the day, and thereby politicise a bill around which there is unanimity. I think that if the Government members want to continue with this approach, which does require the support of members opposite, then the Ministers should be briefed that they should talk to the bill and leave in their offices the sheets that Steven Joyce gives them. Thank you very much.
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua)
: I am going to take just a very short call on this Electronic Identity Verification Bill. I was intrigued to hear that the Government Administration Committee worked so well together, and that there was, indeed, unanimity amongst its members. I hope that Mr Mallard will continue with a constructive tone towards this particular bill, which I understand the select committee made some very good progress on.
The changes made by the select committee included higher penalties for organisations that commit offences under the bill in order to create a sufficient deterrent and appropriate punishment, the addition of a regulation-making power to specify the duration for which the Department of Internal Affairs can retain personal information if an individual no longer uses the services, tighter control of law enforcement access to identity information, clarification of the legal effect of using the services, and, finally, enhancements to the transparency of the service by requiring proactive publication of reports and technical standards. Indeed, the select committee did make its deliberations worthwhile, and its contribution is well appreciated by the Parliament.
I did hear earlier on some discussion about the fact that now that we are in the digital age there is concern that some of those who are not so well off are not able to access it. But I would make the point that it was only the National Party that campaigned in 2008 on bringing out ultra-fast broadband, and that is happening today for all our schools and for all our hospitals. That will be benefiting our children right across the board. This is a good bill. I am glad the committee worked so well. I commend the bill to the House.
MIKE SABIN (National—Northland)
: I endorse my colleague Paul Hutchison’s comments. Of course, what he was really trying to say was that this bill, the Electronic Identity Verification Bill, reflects one of this Government’s four priorities in terms of delivering better public services, and that this bill is another very good example of that.
This bill provides the necessary legislative parameters for the igovt identity verification service, in that it provides easier and more secure access to online Government services, which is very pragmatic and very helpful. It allows individuals to verify their identification to Government service providers via the internet and avoid what most of us will have been through—the need to provide endless screeds of hard-copy documentation to prove one’s identity.
This has been operating successfully in a limited capacity since December 2009, in that one can order birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage certificates online, which I think has proven to be very helpful. This bill really is an expansion of that, so that we can all reap the benefits of online technology. Although that may not be open to all, I think it is fair to say that that is where the world is going. Increasingly,
communities demand to have a greater online presence in terms of their interaction, and this bill brings their ability to interact with Government departments more into line.
I will make just a couple of important points. This legislation is supported by the Privacy Commissioner, and again I find myself agreeing with colleagues from the Green Party, which does not happen too often. I see the member Jan Logie raising her eyelids in agreement with me there. But the contribution from Mr Hughes, and the fact that privacy is at the—
Hon Trevor Mallard: This is not helping the Greens. This is a very subtle attack.
MIKE SABIN: Surely not, Mr Mallard. I would not do such a thing. The fact that privacy has been at the centre of this legislation is important, and I think it is important to note the comments of the Privacy Commissioner on that. There are appropriate and stringent safeguards in place in terms of security, and there is a degree of flexibility that ensures that people have the option to join in and use the service, or use it in part, and, in fact, agencies will have to ensure that individuals can still provide identification in the traditional fashion. So the bill provides an adequate degree of flexibility in that regard. It is a pragmatic bill, something that I am sure enjoys wide support, not only here but across New Zealand, and I commend it to the House.
JAN LOGIE (Green)
: I am going to take just a short call on this bill, and again reinforce the Green Party’s support for the Electronic Identity Verification Bill. I echo my colleague Gareth Hughes’ comments in terms of how constructive I hear the process has been. You know, I will just enjoy for a moment that sense of unanimity and agreement in the House.
Mike Sabin: Bring it in!
JAN LOGIE: Feeling the love. It does not happen that often, and it is good to work constructively together whenever there is a chance.
We are supporting this bill for many reasons, and we are very keen on the improvements that have happened in the select committee process. As somebody who hears many stories from people about going into Work and Income offices and the dramas around presentation of materials and the need to verify and have the right paperwork, I say that I am a fan of anything that reduces that demand for paperwork. I really hope that that will relieve some of the pressure and the need for return visits for many beneficiaries, while obviously acknowledging that quite a few of them will not have access to the internet so will not have access to this service.
I would also just like to highlight something that probably is not at the top of most people’s minds, but that I think also is a real benefit of this, and that is that it will provide a potential bonus for transgender people. This will give them the ability to have the passport, which has a lower threshold for gender identification, as their form of identity. That will go across all departments and will relieve them of that quite traumatic experience of having to deal with departments that may demand a birth certificate, which has an unacceptably high threshold for defining gender. So this is a really positive initiative for trans people in New Zealand. On that level alone, I am really supportive of this bill.
Just to reiterate the changes inherent in it, increasing fines for illegally accessing and using the information to $1 million for companies is a good thing. To require a search warrant for the access of information is a good thing. Although we would have preferred the hard limit, in terms of the time the information is kept when somebody cancels their account, for example, we will accept it going to the Minister and being decided by regulation.
We also are happy about the increased role for the Privacy Commissioner. But I will definitely note my concern about the pressure on the Privacy Commissioner that we are seeing in the number of bills coming to this House that are requiring an increased
oversight by the Privacy Commissioner, without the corresponding increased support for that very, very critical role. I would urge the Government to look at that carefully, because if we are going to put so much responsibility in the hands of the Privacy Commissioner we need to resource that, because privacy is critical.
Also I reinforce that final message about this being an option, and it is a really positive option. It is not something to transplant the face-to-face interactions or to push everyone online when we know that not everyone can get online. With all those comments, the Green Party will be supporting the bill.