Curran orders audit of algorithms, review of games industry

Move comes as Friday deadline looms for new EU data protection law.
Privacy Commissioner John Edwards: Already had review under way

Another day, another review instigated by Communications Minister Clare Curran: or in fact today, two reviews.

Ms Curran and Statistics Minister James Shaw have announced a project to assess how government agencies use algorithms to analyse people’s data.

“The government is acutely aware of the need to ensure transparency and accountability as interest grows regarding the challenges and opportunities associated with emerging technology such as artificial intelligence (AI),” Ms Curran says.

“Jurisdictions around the world are looking at how their data and privacy laws are fit for the digital age, with examples such as the Privacy Bill in New Zealand and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, which comes in to effect on Friday.”

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards already has a similar review underway but welcomed the move.

“We had commenced a similar project earlier in the year with a view to identifying any legislative gaps, and the need for guidance and oversight of these kinds of activities and what role, if any, my office might have in meeting that need,” he says.

“I hope that the work announced by the ministers together with the work underway in my office will help to ensure the select committee considering the Privacy Bill, and the cabinet will have good information on which to base decisions about any legislative response to developments in the field of computer and data-assisted decision making.”

Mr Edwards has made a series of pointed recommendations for the coalition's Privacy Act overhaul, but it's not yet clear if they will all be taken on.

Computer game industry to be 'mapped'
Ms Curran has also ordered up a study of New Zealand’s computer gaming industry and associated fields.

The research, led by the New Zealand Technology Industry Association (NZTech), will map the landscape of New Zealand’s interactive media sector, which includes game development and consumer augmented and virtual reality apps, the minister says.

“The interactive media industry is an exciting and emerging part of New Zealand’s creative tech sector. Our game development sector in particular is growing at an encouraging pace,” Ms Curran says.

”Overall, our creative industries are worth nearly $3.848 billion to GDP and the technology sector’s contribution to GDP is more than $16.2 billion. But these figures are outdated and there’s an urgent need for better measurement.

“Gaming is one of the most commercially viable examples of creative tech and is New Zealand’s fastest-growing creative industry earning over $100 million annually. Last year there were 500 professional game developers working in New Zealand studios."

Of those 500 developers, 114 work at New Zealand’s largest game developer, West Auckland’s Grinding Gear Games, which just landed a major investment from Chinese giant Tencent.

Co-founder Chris Wilson tells NBR his company has taken no grants from Callaghan Innovation or the usual nose in the trough avenues. His profitable company’s Crown-assist was a modest $9000 from NZTE.

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