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How did Nats know parents’ addresses?

Written By: - Date published: 6:57 am, February 10th, 2010 - 31 comments
Categories: education, national/act government - Tags:

You’ll recall that last week National spent $200,000 of taxpayer dollars on a proganda drop defending its national standards. This was a targeted exercise – 350,000 of the pamphlets were produced, enough for the parents of each primary school pupil.

So, how did they know what addresses to send them to? You can’t get information on who has primary school kids from the electoral roll or any other public list. They may have gained the addresses by profiling people on the electoral roll, but prolfiling is a hit and miss affair. As far as I can see, there’s only one database that gives you the residential addresses of every school pupil – the Ministry of Education’s National Student Index.

The Education Act limits the use of the National Student Index to: “Monitoring and ensuring student enrollment and attendance, ensuring education providers and students receive appropriate resourcing, statistical purposes, research purposes, and ensuring that students’ educational records are accurately maintained”

Did National use the Index, in violation of the law, to get the list of pupils’ addresses? I can’t be sure but it looks bloody suspicious. I think the possibility that private information may have been misused is serious enough for me to raise the question and ask for clarification.

If you know what happened, you can tell us in confidence at thestandardnz[at]gmail[dot]com

31 comments on “How did Nats know parents’ addresses? ”

  1. Jenny 1

    Under the pretext of identifying benefit fraud, the last administration passed a bill that allowed the sharing of all data bases across government departments and administrations.

    My guess, is that this act over rules any specific limits written into these different government department data bases.

    I remember at the time, that critics of this bill warned that it would allow this data to be used for other purposes.

  2. tc 2

    NACT is a corporate model so anything within the corporate body belongs to the corporation to further its goals…….bennett’s use of welfare data being the more obvious.

    Is it allowed or isn’t it ? They don’t care and neither would the bulk of NZ’ers ….bigger fish people, focus please.

  3. zelda 3

    But the letter was sent out under National Party letterhead and the funds used were for party political purposes. So it cant be used for sharing between government departments and then end up on a National Party computer and then on the computer of a direct mailer.

    On past experience watch Tolley hide on the floor of her ministerial car to avoid answering this one

  4. Very good question.

    I wonder why the Privacy Commissioner still has not reported on the Bennett complaint. It happened months ago.

    Unless the Education Act has been specifically amended the limitation for the use of the information still ought to apply.

  5. Red Rosa 5

    Shades of ‘IBM and the Holocaust’.

    When the German census data was encoded on IBM cards in the 1930s, it was a simple matter for the Nazis to run the cards through a ‘race’ sort a few years later. All Jews were identified with names and addresses, and it made picking them up so much easier.

    A nice little earner for IBM, but the results are well known.

    Of course this could never happen in New Zealand.

  6. Richard 6

    I take it wouldn’t be possible to OIA the National Party for the details of where their mail database came from.

    But it should be possible to OIA the Education Ministry to see if they were the source?

    • ghostwhowalksnz 6.1

      The National party is not covered by the OIA. Thats why an email leaker had to give it up for Don Brashs secrets.
      The OIA would be obstructed all the way. So would be a waste of time.

      The Privacy act would be the one . as it has real penalties, and Key would be the one to cop the blame in a court of law

      • Richard 6.1.1

        The National party is not covered by the OIA…

        Yes, that was why I said that it wouldn’t be possible to OIA the National Party.

        If the source really is the Education Ministry, however, then I think that should be discoverable by an OIA. But you would probably effectively need to know the answer as to who provided the database beforehand (so that you can word your OIA request appropriately).

        You are right that if there is evidence to be discovered that the OIA request would be obstructed. But that is interesting in and of itself.

    • We (taxpayers) funded the letter so it should be OIAable.

      I suggest a second look however, Natioal Student numbers appear to apply to tertiary students.

      • Marty G 6.2.1

        nah, all students have one:

        The NSN has been used for tertiary students and senior secondary school students sitting the National Certificate of Educational Achievement since 2001. In 2006, a change to the Education Act 1989 gave the Ministry of Education authority to extend the NSN to all parts of the education sector.

        • mickysavage 6.2.1.1

          Right you are.

          Fron the Education Act 1989

          “343 Assigning national student numbers
          (1) The Secretary may assign a national student number to any student who—
          (a) is enrolled with an education provider; or
          (b) has been granted an exemption under section 21 or section 22.
          (2) On the date on which this Part comes into force, every national student number that is already assigned to a person is deemed to be a national student number assigned under this section to that person.

          “344 Use of national student numbers


          (2) The Secretary may authorise or require an authorised user to use national student numbers only for the purpose of, or for a specific purpose falling within, any 1 or more of the following:
          (a) monitoring and ensuring student enrolment and attendance:
          (b) ensuring education providers and students receive appropriate resourcing:
          (c) statistical purposes:
          (d) research purposes:
          (e) ensuring that students’ educational records are accurately maintained.”

          There may be an issue about if it use of the information generally or use of the number only but well worth further investigation.

  7. ghostwhowalksnz 7

    The best way would be to have someone who got a letter then sue John Key directly, not as PM , but as leader of the Parliamentary party, for misusing the Student Index.

    His name is all over it so he is the legal person ‘responsible’. let him wear the mud that will stick

    That way you have a court process of discovery rather the political one which National controls , plus they would have to use party funds to defend it rather than taxpayers and Crown Law

  8. Trevor Mallard 8

    I’m interested to hear if anyone who doesn’t have a child at school got one which would mean that profiling which i think is ok was used.. The idea that the Ministry would allow the use of their database is almost unbelievable. But we live in unusual times.

    And you are right – John Key is personally responsible for this one – although if the database was used on Tolley’s instructions she will be in big trouble too.

    • ieuan 8.1

      Yes Trevor a friend of ours got one of the leaflets but does not have a child at a school. They do have a young son and I think he goes to a pre-school (or play centre) but so does our child and we did not receive a leaflet.

      I also doubt it is was an old address that was is still on a database because they have been at their house for a number of years.

    • Marty G 8.2

      I guess a written question to the minister would be a good way forward.

    • Zorr 8.3

      Same as ieuan here Trev. 2 young boys but neither of them even preschool age yet but we still got the mailer.

      • lukas 8.3.1

        zorr, this will also effect your children in a couple of years… would you have preferred to not get it and be left in the dark as to what is going on?

  9. Marty G 9

    I genuinely can’t think of how you would get a list of primary pupils’ addresses otherwise.

    Had one email from someone saying they got one and have a primary age child but you wouldn’t have picked them if you were profiling from the electoral roll (they’re someone who knows a bit about how that profiling is done)

  10. Paul 10

    Parents at my school didn’t get a letter at all. We are in the Far North and pretty small (100 children) so maybe we weren’t considered important enough.

  11. Paul 11

    On a further matter why are private schools exempt from the National Standards (National except for the rich? or maybe there just might be a direct correlation between socio economic status and educational achievement), If so which of the following will have the greater affect on the standards of achievement in New Zealand’s schools – National Standards or the rise in GST and the tough line on Welfare?

  12. I just asked my colleague who has a primary aged child (mine is only 2) and he hasn’t received the pamphlet. Profiling probably would have excluded their family as he works for a union.

    • Matthew Hooton 12.1

      I have a child at school but I don’t get the letter either. I don’t work for a union.

      • Lew 12.1.1

        Matthew, you also don’t need a pamphlet to be converted to the cause.

        L

        • Matthew Hooton 12.1.1.1

          Yes, but a ministry database wouldn’t know that.

          • Lew 12.1.1.1.1

            If someone could be excluded due to working for a union, someone could certainly be excluded for having the surname “Hooton”.

            I’m not saying this is what happened — only that your single data point is only a single data point.

            L

            • lprent 12.1.1.1.1.1

              Given any database with some basic information in it (name, address, IRD, etc) and matching against something like say the tax records (or electoral roll) that has occupation in it; I’d have very little difficulty in doing either selection exclusion.

              I routinely do this with the electoral roll and other associated data for targeted canvassing in the electorates I volunteer for. However I know where all of that info is coming from. I’m very uncertain where the ministry of education could have gotten theirs from legitimately.

              Of course they could have just compiled a list of people that they wanted excluded from a mailout as well. But that raises just about as many questions.

  13. randal 13

    must have come from from the ministry.
    I listened to the speeches in the house last night and most of the tories couldnt even read their own speeches properly so looking through data would be impossible for them.

  14. randal 14

    new words from the tory backbench.
    multivlication.
    vulnable.
    dimockasee.

  15. tracey 15

    The next question then is did anyone with no children get one? profiling or no profiling, people without children also pay taxes which go into children’s health and education. We do have a right to be informed and to have a say. Otherwise, if we follow the logic of the nats on this mailout, only dog owners and people who have been mauled by dogs will be educated on proposed dog legislation and so on…

  16. Roflcopter 16

    Well duh!

    Just get the Ministry to send it on behalf of, and have all their costs covered. The party doesn’t need to even see the addresses.

    It’s not rocket science, but it makes a great story, right?

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