Police Given Personal Information Without Search Warrants

March 27 2015 | From: WakeUpKiwi via  NewZealandHerald

Officers obtaining personal data from range of organisations by citing clauses in legislation.

Broad swathes of people's personal data are being sought regularly by police from airlines, banks, electricity companies, internet providers and phone companies without search warrants by officers citing clauses in the Privacy Act.

Senior lawyers and the Privacy Commissioner have told the Herald of concerns over the practice which sees the companies voluntarily give the information to police.

Instead of seeking a legal order, police have asked companies to hand over the information to assist with the "maintenance of the law", threatened them with prosecution if they tell the person about whom they are interested and accept data with no record keeping to show how often requests are made.

The request from police carries no legal force at all yet is regularly complied with.

Production orders and search warrants, by contrast, carry a legal compulsion after being approved by a judge or senior court official.

The practice has emerged in recent cases cited by a number of lawyers and has seen a district court judge question the legal right of police to access a defendant's electricity records without a legal order because of the "increasingly intrusive nature of the information gathered by power companies".

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards said he was undertaking research to see if his office should become a central register recording the number of such requests. He said he intended to lead discussion with holders of information over how they could publicly declare the number of requests received.

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