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Māori data experts want indigenous data to be classified as a ‘treasured possession’

Māori data experts want indigenous data to be classified as a ‘treasured possession’

Legislative frameworks for digital identity and data to be introduced by the New Zealand government this year have been criticized by Maori data experts for not showing enough understanding of ‘te ao Māori’ or the ‘Māori world view’, reports the Gisborne Herald.

“Data is a taonga (treasured possession) for me. It is something to be cherished, protected and cared for. And with that comes responsibility,” Dr. Warren Williams is quoted as saying.

Taonga’ being a Maori word meaning a treasured possession whether tangible or intangible and can include items of cultural and historical significance as well as access to natural resources.

Williams is a member of Te Pokapū (working group) Te Mana Raraunga (Māori data sovereignty network).

The upcoming frameworks in question are the Digital Identity Services Trust Framework to govern personal and organizational information relating to identity such as New Zealand’s RealMe single sign-on for accessing government services. RealMe users are onboarded with selfie biometrics provided by Daon. The other is the Consumer Data Right which will allow consumers to securely share data held about them with trusted third parties, notes the report, such as data held by a bank.

Williams believes that too often Māori were only asked about structures being established after the fact.

“Māori want to be able to protect our data. We want to have real ownership of our data. We want to understand where it has been stored,” Williams is quoted as saying. “Where there is physical storage of data, can we access that? Or those who hold our data, are they looking after it in a way that is respectful?”

Williams says that for Māori to have trust in the frameworks, they need to be more involved.

The Gisborne Herald also quotes Otago University researcher and Māori data sovereignty expert, Dr. Karaitiana Taiuru, on the issue:

“We understand from a country’s point of view that any data in America is owned by the American government. It is under their control. Māori data sovereignty highlights the need for Māori to be in charge of, co-govern and co-design data projects.

“I think the two new laws are a positive step forward but there has been a lack of genuine consultation, a lack of understanding of Māori data sovereignty principles. There is certainly a misunderstanding about the social hierarchy of te ao Māori.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Internal Affairs told the paper that Māori insights were included in early stages of project plans and te ao Māori perspectives of identity were being incorporated into the Digital Identity Trust framework.

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