Plunket on Privacy

 Dominion Post

Sean Plunket comments about privacy issues:

No-one likes having to make the walk of shame, be it a batsman stalking off the pitch after going out for a duck, a dishevelled reveller slinking back home after a night on the tiles or the head of ACC going in to see the privacy commissioner after his organisation mistakenly sent details of thousands of case files to the wrong recipient by email.

While the cricketer might get no worse than a bruised ego and the reveller some humorous derision, the senior public servant gets on telly and the headlines bay for blood and scream for reviews and inquiries.

Of course, many of those who have had their privacy breached will want compensation for hurt, humiliation or mental torment. Now if you’ve had to have an HIV test after sleeping with an Aids-diagnosed Casanova I can see some argument for expecting a payout, but if your case number and name were sent somewhere with thousands of others I reckon you should probably just harden up and forgive the faceless public servant who pushed the wrong button with no malicious intent.

Plunket is right on this issue. The media, via a planted story with Phil Kitchin, massively overreacted and they are the ones in fact who caused the distress and anguish from the alleged victims of the privacy breach. The other people that they should be looking at vilifying is Bronwyn Pullar and her little helper Michelle Boag, who at the first hurdle failed the test of a reasonable person and instead of handing back improperly released information tried to extort for financial gain.

Likewise the sooky behaviour shown by Ports strikers:

But building bridges and getting over things is a characteristic in short supply these days. Take the potentially redundant Ports of Auckland worker who is crying foul over details of the very generous leave provisions he received from the company during the terminal illness of his wife.

While manning a picket line that often features banners talking about the needs of families and belonging to a union that has made a YouTube video featuring strikers’ kin, this individual and CTU boss Helen Kelly are outraged that someone in the company chose to leak some balancing facts into what they see as an emotive dispute.

In real terms I wonder just what damage has been done to this man. His wife’s illness and death is clearly no secret and certainly his fellow workers and friends would have known that he needed, and was granted, time off to deal with a traumatic experience.

The fact that the company leak may have technically breached parts of the Privacy Act shouldn’t inevitably lead to a prosecution or compensation. Clearly having put their families at the forefront of their public relations push MUNZ can hardly be surprised if the port’s bosses and their spin doctors reply in kind.

In a wider context I wonder just how much privacy we can really expect in a world where more New Zealanders interact on Facebook than face to face.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.