On 19 December 2012, following years of assessment and culminating in positive recommendations by two specialist EU Committees, the European Commission formally announced that New Zealand’s data protection standards are compatible with those of the EU, and that they ensure “adequate protection” of personal data under the European Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC. Vice-President Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, declared that the decision paved the way to boosting trade with the EU’s international partners, while helping to set high standards for personal data protection at a global level.

Under the European Data Protection Directive, transfers of personal data to countries outside the European Economic Area that are not considered to provide “adequate protection” of personal data are subject to strict conditions under which adequate safeguards must be put in place in order to allow for the international transfer. This finding of adequacy will therefore allow personal data to flow from the 27 EU member states to New Zealand for processing without any further safeguards being necessary.

To date, the European Commission has recognised Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Faeroe Islands, Guernsey, Israel, Isle of Man, Jersey, New Zealand, Switzerland and Uruguay, and the United States’ Safe Harbor scheme, as providing adequate protection.