EU says New Zealand’s data protection is adequate

Under EU data protection rules the personal data of European citizens may not be stored outside of the European Union unless the country or territory concerned has ‘adequate’ (that is, at least as strong as Europe’s) data protection rules. New Zealand has now become just the thirteenth country or territory, along with the likes of the Faeroe Islands, the Isle of Man, Jersey and the US (provided the processing is done under the US Safe Harbor scheme) to be so honored. 

“The European decision is a vote of confidence in our privacy law and regulatory arrangements,” said NZ Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff yesterday. “This decision establishes New Zealand, in the eyes of our trading partners, as a safe place to process personal data.”

“This decision,” commented EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding, “is another step to boosting trade with our international partners while helping to set high standards for personal data protection at a global level.” Personal data from the EU’s 27 nations, plus the three other European Economic Area nations of Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland, can now be shared with New Zealand without any further safeguard being necessary.

Such recognition by the world’s largest trading bloc is becoming increasingly important. For New Zealand it is no longer just a case of selling apples and butter. “In this brave new digital age of social networking and cloud computing,” said the Brussels announcement, “where digital data is everywhere and anywhere, we need stable rules for transfers of personal data beyond EU borders.” 

It is unlikely that the decision will deflect New Zealand’s current physical trade focus, which is with the countries of the Asia-Pacific rim – but it does open new opportunities in cloud-based digital trade with Europe. For New Zealand it is a general vote of confidence, and can be used as such. It confirms, said NZ justice minister Judith Collins, “that New Zealand’s regulatory and legal system is amongst the best in the world. This will have positive spinoffs for Kiwi businesses too. I expect this will open up new opportunities for New Zealand in data processing, cloud computing and financial or call centre activity.”

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