Tuesday, August 1, 2023

New Zealand's Concerning Data Breach of Gun Owners Highlights Risks of Firearm Registration


On July 26, the New Zealand Herald revealed a breach of personal data affecting over 100 firearm owners by the country's newly formed Firearms Safety Authority. According to the report, an email from the Auckland Central Police District's firearms staff was mistakenly sent out with the recipients' email addresses visible in the cc field, rather than being hidden in the bcc field. This mishap exposed information of several prominent Auckland individuals, including legal professionals, company directors, and government officials.

One of the affected gun owners voiced concerns about the potential misuse of the exposed information, saying it could serve as a 'shopping list' for criminals. This instance was not the first occurrence of such a data breach. The Herald had previously reported similar incidents in June and August 2022, where details of around 400 gun owners were stolen from a former Auckland police station.

Notably, New Zealand has had issues with firearm data security in the past. In 2019, a mandatory gun "buyback" program was compromised, resulting in the unauthorized disclosure of firearms owners' names, addresses, birth dates, firearm license numbers, and bank account details. The authorities acknowledged the leak but attributed the failure to a third-party software provider hired to develop the website.

The inability to secure gun owner data isn't exclusive to New Zealand. In June 2022, the California Department of Justice launched its Firearms Dashboard Portal, intended to provide detailed firearm transaction and Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) permit holder data. However, it was soon discovered that this system could be exploited to access the personal information of California CCW holders.

Gun rights advocates often express concerns over gun and gun owner registries due to the potential for misuse, both official and unofficial. Apart from facilitating potential gun confiscation, such registries can also breach the privacy of gun owners. The instances of data breaches in New Zealand and California further underscore the importance of protecting the privacy of those exercising their constitutional rights.

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