FarmsOnLine Purpose of Use & Privacy Statement

Purpose of this document

This document is a précis of the FarmsOnLine Privacy Impact Assessment, outlining the purpose of use that information held in FarmsOnLine may be used, and MAF’s obligations and responsibilities regarding its collection, security and use.

Purpose of collection

FarmsOnLine will include details of property location, ownership and land use and information about the management and presence and type of stock and crops on rural properties.

FarmsOnLine will also hold details of property location, ownership and land use for urban properties. This information is essential for New Zealand’s preparation to respond to any disease outbreaks. Only the presence of, and estimated quantity of stock and crops will be held in FarmsOnLine. Information such as disease status and management practices or financial information are specifically excluded from FarmsOnLine.

A fundamental issue is to ensure that there are clear rules for the use of the information that will be held on the FarmsOnLine database. Individuals and organisations need total confidence that their personal information will be safeguarded.

Collection of personal information

The FarmsOnLine dataset will cover all livestock, forestry, horticulture and viticulture sectors. The FarmsOnLine Data Maintenance Centre will actively manage information about all rural properties, including life-style blocks, and properties contiguous to these rural properties, and will also include sale yards, abattoirs, pack-houses and other relevant premises.

The FarmsOnLine core repository dataset will include rural property location, address, title and land-use information that is already in the public domain. It will also include “personal information” as defined under Part 1 section 2 of the Privacy Act 1993, i.e. “Personal information means information about an identifiable individual”.

The “personal information” FarmsOnLine will hold relating to individual property owners and occupiers is in the form of personal contact details and farm-level information on the volumes of stock and/or crop species. Farm-level information is personal information because it is specific to farm owners and occupiers. It is also considered commercially sensitive information.

Support and cooperation from farmers and land owners is important to ensure that quality farm information is available. FarmsOnLine will also collect personal information directly from individuals willing to provide it, in a number of ways, e.g. through farm owners or occupiers providing information to MAF in response to a survey, query or pro-active updating by the FarmsOnLine Data Maintenance Centre, via telephone or mail. The use of the personal information by FarmsOnLine will be advised to the individual when the information is collected.

The protection of personal information

Personal information will not be available to individuals through the FarmsOnLine website other than to registered FarmsOnLine users who will be able to update or correct their own information if they choose.

The three categories of purpose of use for personal information held in the FarmsOnLine database are:

  1. to support activities sanctioned under the purpose of Part 4 (section 42) of the Biosecurity Act 1993, to enable a precautionary biosecurity capability:
    1. To facilitate the provision of assurances and certificates in relation to exports of organisms and their products; and
    2. As a basis for the proper administration of the Act, including the institution of precautionary actions, emergency and exigency arrangements, and pest management strategies; and
    3. To monitor the effect of pest management strategies; and
    4. Otherwise to enable any of New Zealand's international reporting obligations and trading requirements to be met. ”
  2. to support any purpose allowed through specific permission (e.g. responding to individual farmer requests for assistance, to prevent or mitigate harm to livestock and crops during adverse events such as severe weather events, voluntary participation by individual farmers in market access schemes where location of origin is relevant); and 
  3. to support purposes set out in any new legislation that mandates the provision of personal information to be held in the FarmsOnLine database (e.g. proposed NAIT legislation).

MAF will enter into Data Sharing Agreements with partner organisations. The Data Sharing Agreements will specify the permitted purpose(s) for use of the data provided to and from FarmsOnLine in accordance with the categories outlined above.

Any additional use will require enabling legislation that would involve separate public consultation and a new Select Committee process.

Individuals’ access to their information

Individual property owners will be able to use the igovt login to register as FarmsOnLine user. As a registered user of FarmsOnLine, you will be able to access the secure interface of the FarmsOnLine website, view information that is specific to you, and update or correct it if necessary.

Registration on FarmsOnLine will not be compulsory. At any time you will have the right to request that your personal information be removed from the FarmsOnLine database by way of an opt-out provision, the directions for which will be available on the public interface of the FarmsOnLine website.

Ongoing security of personal information

MAF has consulted with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and the Office of the Ombudsmen in developing the approach to the protection of personal information and commercially-sensitive information in FarmsOnLine, and will continue to do so leading up to and beyond the implementation of the system.

MAF is aware that farmer support and cooperation with FarmsOnLine is important to ensure that quality farm data is available to support biosecurity surveillance, response and pest management activities. FarmsOnLine will comply with the Information Privacy Principles in the Privacy Act and will manage and protect personal information in accordance with the FarmsOnLine Privacy Impact Assessment.

MAF will establish a FarmsOnLine Data Advisory Committee that will have membership drawn from MAF senior management and will include industry representatives.

This committee will provide transparent governance and review that includes the following activities:

  • monitor the use of FarmsOnLine personal and commercially-sensitive information;
  • approve any Data Sharing Agreement with a partner application including the use of FarmsOnLine personal information and commercially-sensitive information;
  • consult with the MAF Privacy Officer over the possible development and management of a complaints/disputes process as a ‘failsafe’ in the context of stakeholder engagement with MAF on FarmsOnLine matters;
  • commission an annual Privacy Audit to review all use of FarmsOnLine personal and commercially sensitive information
  • be responsible for passing any recommended actions arising from this annual audit to the Director General of MAF.

All data updates and retrievals will be logged by the FarmsOnLine system, providing extensive audit capability. FarmsOnLine will be subject to an annual external Privacy Audit to ensure conformance with the Information Privacy Principles in the Privacy Act. The audit will include partner organisations, ensuring conformance with the Data Sharing Agreements in place that outline the specific uses permitted for personal and commercially sensitive information.

The audit findings will be reviewed by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, and will be published on the FarmsOnLine website which will be accessible by farmers and the general public.

Collection of information from the public domain

FarmsOnLine will collect public domain information for the following purposes:

  • effective biosecurity responses and adverse event management;
  • effective biosecurity surveillance programmes to find new incursions quickly or prove freedom from disease regionally or New Zealand-wide;
  • developing and implementing robust policy to secure the future of the rural sector; and
  • assisting the successful implementation of a wide variety of government and industry programmes.

This information will be available to approved research, industry and government organisations who enter into a Data Sharing Agreement with MAF at the cost of transfer. There is no commercial aspect to FarmsOnLine. This information would generally be provided at an aggregated level (i.e. at mesh-block level, local-authority level, regional level, or national level), in compliance with the Principles and Protocols for Producers of Tier 1 Statistics.

Information collected from partner applications

A Data Sharing Agreement will be established with each approved partner clearly stating what personal information and commercially-sensitive information will be collected by FarmsOnLine and how that information will be used. The agreement will also include ongoing monitoring arrangements including participation in the annual Privacy Audit. Before any personal information is collected by FarmsOnLine from any potential data-providing partner application, MAF will need to consider::

  • whether the potential partner application’s use of the personal information is consistent with MAF’s powers under the Biosecurity Act; and
  • whether the potential partner application has obtained permission to provide their personal information and commercially-sensitive information to FarmsOnLine to be used for the purpose(s) as outlined in the Data Sharing Agreement.

The full FarmsOnLine Privacy Impact Assessment report and other relevant information is available here.


Last Updated: 07 December 2010

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