Information related to Project CORTEX

Joshua Grainger made this Official Information request to Privacy Commissioner

Privacy Commissioner did not have the information requested.

From: Joshua Grainger

Dear Privacy Commissioner,

It was revealed in documents released today that the GCSB has been developing a proposal called project "CORTEX." As part of this they have developed a Privacy Impact Assessment. I know that sometimes in developing Privacy Impact Assessments organisations sometimes liaise with the Privacy Commissioner. I would like to request under the Official Information Act:

* any correspondence that the office of the Commissioner has had with the GCSB about proposal CORTEX

In the event that any information is withheld I would like to request that it be dealt with via redaction rather than withholding the document as a whole. In the event that the whole of a document needs to be withheld I would like to instead request that the titles and dates of the relevant documents be released.

Yours faithfully,

Joshua Grainger

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Luke C left an annotation ()

Hi Joshua

I quite like the last paragraph of your request that provides your preferred order of precedence for withholding the information. Without complicating the simplicity with which you have expressed that order of precedence, I wondered whether you might want to consider integrating into it that information and not documents need to be withheld. (Of course, if the entire document contains information of the same nature that needs protection, then the entire document will be withheld). "Information" here, would mean (in this order):
1. characters
2. words/figures
3. phrases
4. sentences
5. paragraphs
6. sections
7. pages
8. documents (the entire contents)

Only the lowest order of information in the hierarchy that needs to be withheld, ought to be withheld; and information which doesn't have an identified interest in need of protection (based on the withholding grounds in the Act), ought to be made available to the requester.

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From: Katrine Evans
Privacy Commissioner

Dear Mr Grainger


Thank you for your Official Information request which we received on 15
September 2014. You have asked for “any correspondence that the office of
the Commissioner has had with the GCSB about proposal CORTEX”.


We have not had any correspondence about CORTEX with the GCSB, and so we
have no documents to release to you. In particular, we have not reviewed a
privacy impact assessment for the project.  


The project was raised briefly – though not by name, and only at a
preliminary and broad level – at a meeting that the previous Commissioner
and one of our staff members had with the GCSB on 6 November 2012. We did
not take notes of that meeting as it was at Secret level. However, the
information that we received at that meeting largely equates with the
information now released in the Cabinet papers (published on the NZ Herald
website at
We received some additional details about the nature of the threats the
project aimed to address, but, to the limited extent that those details
might be able to be recalled, we would withhold them under section 6(a) of
the Official Information Act, to protect national security.


If you are dissatisfied with this response, please either let me know or
contact the Ombudsman and ask for a review of our decision.


I hope that this is of some assistance.


Yours sincerely

Katrine Evans

Assistant Commissioner (Legal and Policy)





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From: Joshua Grainger

Dear Katrine Evans,

Thank you for your reply - very speedy. In particular it is great to see the Office of the Commissioner recognising that information inside someone's head is information for the purposes of the OIA: many organisations seem to either not realise this or ignore this.

Yours sincerely,

Joshua Grainger

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