Search and Surveillance Act 2012

Publication Date 
01 March 2017

For the last eight months, the Law Commission has been working with the Ministry of Justice to review the Search and Surveillance Act 2012. 

The Act itself requires a regular review by both those agencies to make sure that the use of search and surveillance is effective and also to check that the law is protecting the rights of people being investigated – especially their right to privacy.

Law Commissioner Donna Buckingham says that for the most part enforcing the law and protecting human rights are complementary goals. However, search and surveillance law can put that relationship under pressure.

"A lot of that pressure comes from changes to technology and the way in which people use it, whether for lawful or unlawful purposes."

"So our review looks at developments such as smart phones and cloud computing – when can people keep their information private and when can agencies like the police use that data to solve crimes?"

Donna Buckingham says many people think the Act is only about the use of police powers.  It actually encompasses the activities of a much wider range of enforcement agencies including fisheries inspectors, food officers, gambling inspectors, immigration officers, meat board auditors, and park rangers.