Vernon Small has written an opinion piece at Fairfax, complaining about Westpac allegedly breaching Nicky Hager’s privacy.
The revelation Westpac handed over author Nicky Hager’s bank records to the police – without so much as a by-your-leave from the courts – should send a shiver down the spine.
It ought, too, to be a wake-up call to any other corporates out there who think their customers’ records are fair game for any authority figure that comes knocking.
They are not.
Kudos to the likes of Spark, Vodafone, Air New Zealand, Jetstar and TradeMe for recognising that – and refusing a similar request from the police.
In the case of Hager’s records – sought when the police were trying to find who hacked blogger Cameron Slater’s computer (providing the material for Hager’s book Dirty Politics) – there is more at stake than simply tracking down a potential criminal.
As the Media Freedom Committee’s Joanna Norris has pointed out, there was no suggestion Hager had committed a serious crime.
The main investigation was aimed at a third party, the self-named Rawshark. It would be bad enough if the police had come seeking the records of a member of the public but it is more chilling still when it is a journalist, who relies on being able to keep his or her sources confidential and who will on occasions interact with people “of interest to the police”.
But that should not be an excuse to access their bank, phone and travel records willy-nilly.