Submission: TIPC emergency service access to location information

The Council has made a submission to the Privacy Commisioner concerning the proposed extensions to the Telecommunications Information Privacy Code. These extensions would:

  1. Allow people to opt-in to allow location tracking by emergency services.
  2. Allow emergency services to locate someone who they believe is at risk of serious harm.
  3. Allow emergency services to locate someone who they believe may intend to inflict serious harm on others.

We support the first of these, and support with reservations the second. These reservations include a requirement for mandatory notification after the fact to the person located, and significant improvements to the process and oversight to protect against misuse.

However, the third, that allows emergency services to locate someone for the benefit of someone else, appears to be less of an extension to the existing 111 emergency location system and more a form of surveillance. It would allow emergency services to merely assert that someone is or will be a danger to someone else and thereby access their location as revealed by their phone.

This provision makes an end run around the Search and Surveillance Act that already contains provisions for the use of tracking devices and production orders to compel service providers to reveal someone’s location. Importantly, they also include formal procedures and safeguards to prevent this power being misused, with breach of these being an offense. We note that the S&S Act also includes the ability in the event of an emergency to act first and seek authorisation within 48 hours.

We oppose this purpose for the TIPC and recommend that rather than allowing it, that it specifically forbids it as an acceptable practice. Location data is highly personal and invasive, and any access to it should have to comply with the rules set by Parliament when they passed the law. Privacy Codes are not meant to be used to circumvent law in the way proposed.

Read the submission for our full analysis and recommendations.