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Privacy Legislation: What translators and interpreters need to know

20 Aug 2020

Report on Online Presentation: ‘NZ Privacy Legislation: What translators and interpreters need to know’, 21 July 2020

Written by Hannah Burdekin

What do translators and interpreters need to know about privacy? We might think that we are rather well-informed and have a professional advantage; after all, many of us deal regularly with information that is sensitive for legal, commercial, financial or medical reasons. Moreover, as members of NZSTI, we agree to conduct ourselves professionally in line with Society’s Code of Ethics, an important part of which is to ‘maintain confidentiality and […] not disclose information acquired in the course of [our] work’. But if pressed for specific details about how we uphold that principle, and how we ensure that we are operating in accordance with the relevant privacy legislation, many of us might admit to feeling less knowledgeable. Certainly, the recent online presentation on privacy issues that was arranged by the Auckland Branch was extremely well-attended and, given that the presentation was being delivered only two weeks after the disclosure of the medical information of COVID-19 patients had led to political upheaval and resignations, this was a very topical and relevant theme.

Over 50 NZSTI members joined in via GoToMeeting to watch Vanya Vida, Senior Policy Advisor at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC), deliver a highly informative presentation on current and future privacy requirements in New Zealand as well as the impact of overseas privacy legislation. Vanya started her presentation by explaining the 12 principles set out in the current legislation, the Privacy Act 1993. This Act will be replaced by the Privacy Act 2020, which comes into force on 1st December this year. Vanya went on to describe some of the key changes in the new legislation, including how the legislation will apply for the first time outside of New Zealand, mandatory reporting of data breaches, and updates to several of the key privacy principles. She also described the steps that we can be taking now to prepare for the new Act, such as visiting the OPC website to access e-learning resources or to use the Priv-o-matic tool to generate a privacy statement. Guidance for sole traders and small businesses on model clauses for terms and conditions will also be made available soon, so checking back on the OPC site in the coming months is definitely to be recommended.

The presentation then touched upon the requirements of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect in 2018 and applies globally to anyone, regardless of location, who provides goods and services to residents of the EU. The GDPR is one of the reasons for the updating of the Privacy Act 1993, as New Zealand legislation moves closer to international best practice, and is itself due to be reviewed in 2021. Vanya next moved on to detail some recent breaches of personal information in New Zealand and the lessons that can be drawn from them, such as being aware of the Privacy Act’s requirements and having a plan for how to handle data breaches.

It was fortunate that there was enough time left for Vanya to take questions, as members had plenty of these. Should every business have a privacy statement? How long can personal data be retained for after a job has been completed? What about information held in a translation memory? Are we breaching privacy legislation if we contact the relevant authorities because we believe a client has forged or amended an official document? In each case Vanya was able to point to the relevant principle in the legislation and explain how to approach the issue.

While the online presentation format didn’t allow for the audience to applaud the presenter once the presentation had finished, the dozens of positive comments that flowed in via GoToMeeting’s Chat function were evidence that members were very grateful to Vanya for her time and had learnt a great deal from the presentation. Given the upcoming changes to the New Zealand legislation, the issue of data privacy is one that we hope to revisit before too long in order to learn more about the impact of the Privacy Act 2020.

The following links contain a huge amount of helpful information.

OPC website

Training materials

Priv-o-matic privacy statement generator

Privacy Commission - GDPR

EU Law


About the Office of the Privacy Commissioner
Established in 1993, the OPC works to develop and promote a culture in which personal information is protected and respected. It has a range of functions, including promoting understanding of the privacy principles, investigating privacy breaches and monitoring and enforcing compliance with the Privacy Act. Currently headed by Privacy Commissioner John Edwards, the OPC has 35 fulltime staff based in Wellington and Auckland.


Photo credit: Tim Mossholder on Unsplash


Download Privacy presentation
(Adobe PDF) 2838KB


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