Statistics NZ has been building their Integrated Data Infrastructure 'big data' repository for several years now from census and other sources. They want it to be used for 'public good' research, and appear to have great respect for privacy and other ethical concerns as well as excellent governance. If they can do it, why does MSD have to do things another way?
Although even the IDI is affected by political ideology. For example, the Government made a decision in 2012 not to do a Disability Survey following every census. This survey had been developing good NZ disability data since 1996. Now, those same questions will not be asked, and fed into the IDI, as regularly, so there are implications for disability knowledge and policy.
Given what's happened in Australia recently: https://bluemilk.wordpress.com/2017/02/26/is-this-what-happens-when-you-criticise-government/ and of course the Paula Bennett cases, I think the question is less "what would a friendly government want that information for" and more "what would a hostile minister do with it".
The difference is that in Australia the Minister argued that he had the right to release the personal information for the purpose of hurting the victim, rather than Bennett agreeing that it was wrong but doing it anyway.
Growing legal advice that what MSD wants to do is illegal. So hopefully it will never happen. http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/201835268/government-breaching-privacy-laws-by-making-social-services
Probably another argument as to why we need a constitution enshrining rights - as promoted by Geoffrey Palmer.
Probably another argument as to why we need a constitution enshrining rights - as promoted by Geoffrey Palmer.
The Opportunities Party has put out a policy on a written constitution;
There are so many ramifications here. Statistics NZ is already collecting a huge amount of data on us- minus the stuff the government doesn't want to know, for its own convenience, like the disability data.
This "we don't have that information " excuse is popping up more and more often in circumstances where any reasonable Minister or CEO would have set up the information collection system ages ago, when it became apparent something wasn't working right.
And on the other side of the equation we have Big Brother, quietly going about increasing Big Brother's access to our personal lives (as was done with the IDI) for purposes of ? And that's one of the problems. The purpose might genuinely be to improve some people's life chances in the most effective and economical ways but tomorrow some less palatable use could be made of this data taonga, there's nothing to prevent it.
We do need a written constitution to prevent this constant erosion of our rights and protections. But in the meantime we need to make a lot of noise now about our citizenship rights.
It’s hard to understand what possible advantage there could be in such creepy individual monitoring. I know there’s been talk of greater co-ordination between multiple government agencies and NGOs so that people get all the help they need. But I assumed that would take the form of some sort of personal mentoring, not a fucking surveillance state. Citizens need to be empowered, not spied on.
Thank you for writing this Hilary. With regards to Trevor McGlinchey saying the move was a step towards a “surveillance society” that would “undermine people’s trust in non-government agencies”, I’m a little hesitant about the messaging, because many might agree that we already live in a surveillance society/state and that this depiction no longer has much cut through.
Thousands of us watch surveillance in the form of Police Ten 7, Recue 1, Border Patrol, Rapid Response, Road Cops, Fair Go. The CCTV cameras in the parking lots and stores and on the roads make us feel safer, many accept Snowden’s and Hager’s information with regards to XKeyscore.
The revelation In the biopic Snowden, whether accurate or otherwise, that one of the first things he did on acquiring access to XKeyscore was use it to spy on his girlfriend was powerful for me. Not dissimilar from what our Deputy Prime Minister did. Targetted data exploitation presents no less a threat than the drift netting of mass surveillance.
Pandora’s box has been opened for this technology. So given the very high probability that the Government is already in possession of the tools to do this, that we already are living in a surveillance state,then the word’s detractive value is compromised, like calling a tree a tree. Election 2017 is a match up between surveillance and surveillance.
What stands out for me here is the coerced disclosure of client information by functionaries upon whom complicity is imposed, collaboration mandatory. The tree digging it’s roots deeper into society and communities.
My best friend at high school was prone to extreme acts of violence and abuse, it made no sense to me at the time because his mother was a psychiatrist. They had an unlisted number which changed a few times.
In our midteens my friend informed me that he’d been through his mother’s files and described the mental health issues of various students at our school.
He was quite a big part of the reason I left school and when I decided to he referred me to his mother for depression, I attended the meetings, but it was difficult to speak openly about someone to their mother.
Diagnosis: “Mild Depression”. I didn’t take the Prozac. Speaking to another friend recently I found out he’d received the same referral 2 years later, attended the meetings. Diagnosis: “Mild depression”, hadn’t taken the Prozac. I don’t doubt that our mutual friend read those files too.
So a couple of years back I asked this friend – who is now much changed for the better – why he was so psychotic then, why he did all those things.
Turns out that they had suffered a home invasion by one his mother’s clients before I moved there. A seriously ill patient somehow managed to access her data.
Increased access to these data sets pose considerable risk to us as individuals, professionals and the integrity of our institutions and society.
The NZ Association of Counsellors has now come out against the policy. I am still puzzled why it has taken so long for those at the front line of implementing this policy to react. Is it because the contracts are so long and complicated that a clause like this can be slipped in unnoticed?
There is also the major ethical and political issue that the whole Social Investment Strategy is another way for the Government to contract out work and services that would have once been provided by government employees.
Thank you for that disclosure.
the whole Social Investment Strategy is another way for the Government to contract out work and services
Which is why they want to track individuals over time - so they can tie contracted payments for long-term individual outcomes rather than single interventions and population-level results.
They intend to apply privatised insurance industry actuarial models across all social services. Very similar to how the US health system is organised - ie: a costly disaster. This is the endgame Bill English, Steven Joyce and Paula Bennett have been working towards for many years now without effective opposition. Time to step up.
The thing with Paula Bennett is that it was completely wrong for her to leak that kind of information, and most probably illegal under the Privacy Act. I’m kind of surprised that the police didn’t try to prosecute her (or did they?).
Isn’t the Privacy Act the elephant in the room here? As long as the voluntary sector always preface services with “we will share your data to MSD in order to get funding” etc., then information sharing would be legal.
This of course will be a burden to the voluntary sector and by extension to vulnerable people. Because in my experience as a volunteer in the social sector, information disclosure can be a “cost” to using a completely free service, i.e. some people just don’t want their demographic information taken down, at all. But the really vulnerable ones will not be affected because they will be desperate for help, the information “cost” is worth it.
I do see the point of the data collection, it is to identify patterns so as to address problems more smartly, e.g. if certain people from a certain demographics keep falling through, what are the causes? With data analysis, you can do precision strike on the causes rather than carpet bombing.
The balancing act may be a so called "chinese wall" ring fencing MSD client data (c.f. financial sector), over and above what is required of the Privacy Act. So e.g. short of a court order, MSD information will NOT be shared at all, even with related agency such as CYFS (or whatever the hell it is now called).
The thing with Paula Bennett is that it was completely wrong for her to leak that kind of information
If only she agreed on that point,
I acknowledge that you consider that I was wrong to do so and that this resulted in a breach of Ms Fuller’s privacy.
As you also know, I do not accept that view.
Best case scenarios may at face value paint a picture of a system that appears quite benign, but the worst case scenarios – when not if they occur – will inevitably be disastrous for those most vulnerable.
Comparing the quantity of data the MSD already collects with the widespread social issues our country currently faces, I’m not overly optimistic about any claims they might make regarding their capacity to identify patterns and address them meaningfully.
Yes there is an overlap between the casual attitude to surveillance displayed by Government now and earlier policies which led to all that institutional abuse. Both underpinned by longstanding eugenic beliefs.
I keep coming back to the idea that consent is only meaningful if it can be withheld.
The whole idea that someone in a desperate situation can just say "nah, not today" to help is ridiculous. Surely our market-worshipping overlords will put their theory to the test by a controlled trial where half the services demand private information as the price of help, and a similar set of services don't. After a year all services switch to the more effective choice. Isn't that how it works?
They are interested in longer payback timeframes than 1 year.
My memory was a bit hazy on the Fuller case. So nothing really came out of it? That just sounds all wrong. Paula Bennett has a track record of character assassination, the latest was against Hurimoana Dennis. So I understand the worry that someone in MSD can use the information collected for abuse.
I'm being a bit contrarian here, but my understanding is that data mining will make the welfare budget more effective, thus helping more people. There is of course privacy concerns on the other hand. So a political discussion is need. We need to agree on what is acceptable information gathering and sharing, and what isn't acceptable, and be prepared to change as we go along. (e.g. default opt-in information sharing rather than opt-out, since psychologically people are subjected to default bias, etc.)
This is a brave new world we are living in, the new tools are right there, we just have to use it properly.
I think you'll find that Paula Bennett et al believe in payback in the shortest possible time - I believe that if she can get a hostile press release out the same day someone criticises her she'll do it.
If the difference between services that share information and services that don't is so subtle it takes more than a year to see the difference I'm not sure the cost of information sharing is worth it. Especially since the cost is borne by the poorest. I think that if they did perform the experiment they'd find the "keep client information confidential" services would help an awful lot more people than the "anything you tell us goes to the ministry poste haste" ones.
I’m being a bit contrarian here
The Christchurch and Dunedin Studies etc. spring to mind as ethical examples of data collation, 1000s of papers published – by academics – information useful for “social development”. Globally there is an incredible amount of research available, in this age of instant science. Unfortunately there is very little indication at all that this Government does science. They don’t even look to be on the same golf course as science.
Science – done properly – requires ethical standards, and scientists, adhering to ethical standards. The ethics of collecting data of this very sensitive nature with coerced consent – in order to observe and apply stimuli – already violates a number of human rights. Which is why we do desperately need a constitution, we lack safeguards:
In 2010, the National Institute of Justice in the United States published recommended rights of human subjects:
● Voluntary, informed consent
● Respect for persons: treated as autonomous agents
● The right to end participation in research at any time
● Right to safeguard integrity
● Benefits should outweigh cost
● Protection from physical, mental and emotional harm
● Access to information regarding research
● Protection of privacy and well-being
As I said upthread, I believe they're introducing it only because it will allow privatised social investment contracting over years of a person's life across different services and contexts - eg: getting payment for a client still being in employment several years later, or not unemployed a couple of years after transitioning from school, or not needing to access other govt-funded services.
All sorts of perverse incentives and opportunties for waste of public funds, but that's unlikely to deter these neolib clowns.
We need to agree on what is acceptable information gathering and sharing, and what isn't acceptable
Horse long-bolted. Govt has made that decision for us several years ago and they have been assembling the infrastructure since. Would be good if it became an election issue but most of us citizens have no idea what's going on with it so a lot of awareness to build.
my understanding is that data mining will make the welfare budget more effective, thus helping more people.
From what I've read the intention is to spend more on fewer people now to prevent them costing more long-term.
Unfortunately there has been no corresponding extra investment so it may play out like the proposed Special Ed shift of focus to the youngest disabled students by taking it from older ones.
That's almost certainly not what Sacha meant by "payback"!
The long-term object of the exercise is purportedly increasing the efficiency of the system and thereby, in theory, helping more people without increasing funding. History of similar centralisation moves suggests the efficiency gains sought are a mirage, and that, if there were any benefit, it would be subtle enough that several years' observation would be required to confirm any difference.
The possibility of abuse by ministers seeking retribution, and even the possibility of actually helping more people -- without reducing the per capita cost of that help -- are not really on the radar of the idealists driving this move.
… Well, that's weird. My system just updated with my own post showing as 17 minutes old (and therefore uneditable) immediately after posting. And I would have wanted to edit it, since the intervening conversation has rendered it moot.
[Mystery solved: system clock was wrong.]
Horse long-bolted. Govt has made that decision for us several years ago and they have been assembling the infrastructure since. Would be good if it became an election issue but most of us citizens have no idea what’s going on with it so a lot of awareness to build.
Privacy issues in general aren’t really in people’s mind. House price, economy, traffic, health, education, law and order (in no particular order…) are generally in people’s mind more. And I don't blame them. But since Snowden my eyes are wide open.
“Privacy is freedom” is perhaps the best one line explanation I’ve heard on why privacy is important. It is both a technical and a philosophical issue, so you can’t really expect the general public to go gaga about this. But I talk the ears off anyone who would listen.