‘Data is the new oil’: Call to save jobs of data security guards

The Privacy Foundation has slammed a proposal by the Department of Internal Affairs to axe at least seven roles across privacy and information security.

The DIA has confirmed plans to axe 73 roles, including the Government Chief Privacy Officer (GCPO).

Privacy Foundation committee member Gehan Gunasekara called the proposal “completely unintelligent, not targeted and a random act of vandalism” by the government, in its bid to cut costs in the public service.

The GCPO played a crucial role in safeguarding the privacy rights of New Zealand citizens and ensured the government handled personal information in a transparent and accountable manner, Gunasekara said.

“There are [at least six] other roles across government that are being cut. I’m very concerned by this… privacy is the one area you wouldn’t want to cut, given the importance of data in the economy.

“Data is the new oil and the government’s data, especially on the personal data that it holds on all of us, is a very valuable resource. We know people are trying to get hold of it – hackers, other external threats – and the one thing you don’t want to do is cut down the number of security guards you’ve got.

“When someone is after your property you don’t get rid of the security guards, it’s a no-brainer. It just shows the government’s plans are completely unintelligent, not targeted. I would call it a random act of vandalism.”

Privacy and cyber security risks were more prevalent than ever, he said, adding that the government should be investing more in privacy and cyber security, not less.

Gunasekara said the proposal, if implemented, was likely to cause serious detriment to public trust and confidence in government services.

New Zealand already “seriously lags” behind other countries on issues like children’s privacy, such as children accessing harmful content online or predators preying on children online, as well as data portability (which allows personal data to be safely transferred between organisations), he said.

These problems required specialist expertise within government, Gunasekara said.

Last month, an Internal Affairs Department spokesperson confirmed the department planned to disestablish nine roles from the Digital Safety Team, of which five were already vacant, and to create one new role.

“The changes proposed for the Digital Safety group ensure that core investigation and compliance activity can be maintained: keeping New Zealanders safe online from digital violent extremism, harmful messaging and online child exploitation, and providing tightly focused education and information,” the spokesperson said.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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