Privacy case likely to succeed | The Jackal

5 Aug 2013

Privacy case likely to succeed

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Neither Vance nor Dunne can probably succeed in showing breaches of the Privacy Act by Henry, who is subject to the act, and the Parliamentary Service, which is not subject to the act. We do need further debate on whether the Parliamentary Service should be subject to the Privacy Act, and the Official Information Act for that matter.

I have to disagree with Mai Chen here. There has been a clear breach of privacy of a private citizens communications. Firstly, the information doesn't need to be read or used in anyway whatsoever for the Privacy Act to come into play. It makes no distinction between illegally accessing somebodies private information and using that information. The breach clearly occurs when that information is accessed.

The question is whether the terms of reference for the inquiry, or any additional orders, are what directed Parliamentary Service to employ a "contractor" to retrieve Andrea Vance and Peter Dunne's communications. Believing that Parliamentary Service undertook to access three months worth of communications without any orders from either John Key, David Henry or the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is quite simply naive. Parliamentary Service doesn't act in this way without direction.

Combined with the fact that one of John Key's top advisers failed to inform the prime minister for an entire month that emails between a journalist and a politician were sent to the Henry inquiry and you have a recipe for a successful breach of privacy case against John Key, the DPMC or David Henry.

In conclusion, we need to discuss more safeguards, or clearer rules to ensure whichever government is in power cannot snoop on journalists whose work may uncover stories that show the government in a bad light. Otherwise, it will surely happen again. With the GCSB Bill returning to the House this week, these issues need to be discussed by parliamentarians.

In my opinion, there is no hazy area concerning the Privacy Act in this clear cut case and changing the rules isn't what's required. What is required is that our duly elected officials and their employees need to follow those already well established rules to the letter of the law. They haven't, and somebody should therefore be held to account.

Mai Chen, as usual, is being far to diplomatic.