Green MP Keith Locke is criticising the Justice Minister for giving the green light to US companies that send New Zealanders’ personal information to America for checking against the US anti-terrorist watchlist.
“In Parliament today Phil Goff justified the vetting of Aucklander Mohammad Abbas by the US Office of Foreign Assets when he sent money to a sick relative to India through US-owned Western Union,” said Mr Locke, the Green Party’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson.
“Financial institutions in New Zealand are required to check transactions against the New Zealand list of designated terrorists, which is essentially the UN list. If the checking had been done in New Zealand, according to New Zealand law, Mr Abbas would have been quickly cleared, even though his name was similar to someone on the New Zealand list.
“Instead, Western Union applied US law and sent the information for processing by the US Office of Foreign Assets, which operates a much larger American watchlist. All kinds of people have been inconvenienced by the application of this list, most recently the singer Yusuf Islam, AKA Cat Stevens.
“Western Union’s action was a violation of New Zealand sovereignty and our privacy law, which aims to restrict and control the circulation of personal information.
“Western Union’s actions brought much grief to Mr Abbas, whose uncle in India needed the money for an urgent operation.
“New Zealand should be following the British Columbian Government’s example by passing legislation that restricts the passage of information out of Canada and imposes heavy fines on those who disclose it to foreign agencies.
“The law, passed last month, was in response to the US Patriot Act, whereby the American government can force US subsidiaries in other countries to give personal information to the FBI, and at the same time forbid those companies from telling the host government.
“Mr Goff should also take heed of the British Colombia Privacy Commissioner’s report, issued last Friday, which proposes further legislation, and wants assurances from relevant US officials that they will not attempt to access personal information on British Colombians from US companies operating in the province,” said Mr Locke.