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Copyright © 2017 Proformac Technologies

A call to 111 will now automatically locate you

May 11, 2017


A new system will automatically trace the location of a caller when they dial 111 from their mobile phone - with the Government acknowledging associated privacy concerns.


More than 80 per cent of 111 calls are made from mobile phones and last year police had to ask a network provider for location information more than 1800 times - a process that could be too slow in emergency situations.


All location data will only be held for 60 minutes and will then be deleted.

Simon Bridges


The ability for emergency services to more accurately trace callers was recommended by Coroner Ian Smith after the death of Jason Roach, who died in December 2010 after calling police who could not locate him.


The new caller location system was detailed this morning in Wellington by Police Minister Paula Bennett, Communications Minister Simon Bridges and Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne.


Bridges said the Office of the Privacy Commissioner had been consulted throughout the project and had authorised the new system, via an amendment to the Telecommunications Information Privacy Code 2003.

Data may be sent to a Location Area Service (LAS) system overseen by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (Mbie).


This data is provided by a mobile network operator (for all handset types), or by a handset (if an Android handset). It is more accurate for Android phones which will be located within metres, while Apple phones will use the nearest cellphone tower.


Bridges said he appreciated people may be concerned about their privacy. No warrant or permission will be needed from the caller.


"Which is why the phone's location services are switched on only when the 111 call is made and then returned to the caller's original settings within 24 seconds of the 111 call being initiated," Bridges said.

"All location data will only be held for 60 minutes and will then be deleted." 


New Zealand Police, New Zealand Fire Service, St John and Wellington Free Ambulance will have access to the location information.


How accurately a caller's location is mapped will depend on a number of factors including the type of mobile phone and location source available.


Bridges said the caller location system meant New Zealand would lead the way in emergency response systems, alongside the United Kingdom and other European countries.


"New Zealand is the first country outside of Europe to go live with Google's Android Emergency Location service nationally."


Bennett said it would still be important for 111 callers to tell operators where they are. But if a caller doesn't know their location the new system will help.


The Government had previously moved towards the development of an app that people could download if they wanted their 111 call automatically traced.

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