A Fairfax Press headline today: ‘“Large-scale breach” of privacy rules by NZ Post’. The Privacy Commissioner has found New Zealand Post breached privacy rules in a promotion in July 2009, which I thought would have been a juicy story back then.
The reporters write:
The 2009 survey asked participants 57 multi-choice questions, ranging from their names, addresses, preferred petrol station and favourite magazine to their mortgage rate, credit card limit and partner’s income.
It also offered participants the chance to win cash, home entertainment and travel vouchers worth thousands of dollars if they completed the survey.
Once collected, the names and addressees of participants were rented out to “trusted, contracted commercial partners”, both in New Zealand and overseas.
I thought all this sounded very familiar, so I went back on to this blog to discover this post. I wasn’t alone in thinking that the survey was extremely dodgy, as there was a comment in agreement, and the Fairfax report indicates that numerous Kiwis went to the New Zealand Post blog to complain. (Unfortunately, with the demise of Vox, the image on my page has been permanently deleted.)
I wrote at the time:
Essentially, this is a form requesting your details so you can be added to spam lists.
Ironical that in a country with anti-spam legislation, another government department is prepared to sell our personal information to spammers (including foreign spammers which our law enforcement agencies cannot pursue readily), and believes one’s identity is only worth a maximum of $15,000.
The pertinent clause, printed in 7 pt type, was this:
By undertaking the New Zealand Post survey, your and your partner’s name, address and other information you supply (including your email and telephone numbers if you tick the boxes below), may be provided to companies and other organisations from New Zealand and overseas to enable them to provide you and/or your partner, with information about products and services relevant to your responses to this survey. New Zealand Post may also use this information for the same purpose.
On the back was 5 pt type, saying New Zealand Post disclaims liability for:
any claims, losses, damages, injuries, costs and expenses suffered or sustained or incurred (including but not limited to indirect or consequential loss), arising out of or in any way connected with the competition and/or its prizes except for liability that cannot be excluded by law
I concluded then: ‘it can’t really be found guilty of passing on information that a consumer submits voluntarily, and based on this term it won’t be found guilty of contributing to the spam problem that we are all trying to ﬁght.’ I advised that the promotion should be reported to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and the Consumers’ Institute—and if I was on form then, I would have done so myself.
A professor quoted by Fairfax for its story today concluded, ‘the survey appeared to have breached “each of the four information privacy principles that relate to the collection of personal information”.’
A lecturer said, in the words of the journalists, ‘the survey’s collection of personal information were unfair in terms of the market research code of practice and industry standards.’
I’m glad to know the Privacy Commissioner was on to it enough to investigate New Zealand Post. But as my friends in Dunedin are ﬁnding over its actions to save the Dunedin Metro branch of Post, this government department is led by some very arrogant types who think they are above everyday New Zealanders. To ‘utterly rebut every conclusion’ indicates that Post believes it exists in a dream-land: it was as clear in 2009, as it is today, that it had messed up. Issuing such impassioned, exaggerated statements indicates that it is yet another outﬁt that has got too comfortable for its own good, like some others in this city that I can name.