Phil Bain, 8 February 2018

This year the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) will launch a privacy trust mark system. A Trust Mark endorsement is intended to reassure consumers that the product or service they are considering buying or subscribing to is reliable and trustworthy – think the “Heart Tick” and the “Certified Organic” symbol.

The criteria and process to qualify for a Trust Mark endorsement and has not yet been released by the OPC. However, in press releases the OPC alludes to “trust, control and transparency” being essential and “privacy-positive behaviours”.

I note that the OPC has been pushing to reform the Privacy Act for many years without success. This Trust Mark initiative may be a way of familiarising businesses with privacy practices that the OPC has been trying to make mandatory through regulatory reform. So, practices like voluntarily reporting of data breaches (including involving the OPC at the earliest opportunity) are likely to be essential in order for a business to become Trust Mark endorsed.

Other privacy practices that the OPC has been publicising lately, that are rumoured to be adopted for Trust Mark endorsement, include:

  1. giving consumers some measure of control over their personal information;
  2. developing policies to deal with requests for information from government agencies (e.g., Inland Revenue, MSD, and Police); and
  3. transparency reporting – a (usually yearly) publically released report detailing:
    • the amount of requests for information received;
    • the agencies requested the information; and
    • the type of information sought.

For an example of a transparency report see Trade Me’s 2017 report.

According to the OPC their overseas privacy counterparts are also considering implementing trust mark systems. So there may be an opportunity for the Trust Mark to set an international standard.

Also note: The OPC is running a design competition for the Trust Mark that ends on 15 February 2018. If you’re keen to make your mark (get it), why don’t you enter??

Phil Bain

Author: Phil Bain

Phil is a junior lawyer with a focus on corporate and commercial law matters. He has been an active participant in early-stage tech start-ups, and is interested in high growth enterprise.