The Privacy Act applies to almost every person, business or organisation in New Zealand, including local bodies. It is a set of rules that govern how organisations have to look after personal information that they collect.
The Privacy Commissioner’s Office is an independent entity that is responsible for investigating complaints about breaches of privacy, educating about privacy, and checking proposed legislation to see how it could affect individual privacy.
Personal information is any information that can identify you as an individual. It includes things like:
- your name
- your address
- a picture of your face
- a record of your opinion and views
- employment information
- health records
- financial information.
A privacy breach could be something like:
- giving your information to someone you didn’t authorise (eg delivering your letter to the wrong house)
- using incorrect information about you (eg recording a debt that you never had)
- collecting your information without your consent (eg a video camera in a private place)
- refusing to give you access to your information.
If an organisation does something that you think breaches your privacy, the first step is to contact them directly. If the problem is not resolved, then you can contact the Privacy Commission. The Commission will decide if an investigation is required. If an investigation is held, it will determine whether a breach has happened, and if it has, the Commission can require the organisation to meet with you, make the organisation give you information, and facilitate a settlement if needed.
Every organisation, whether it’s a big government department or a small social club, is covered by the requirements of the Privacy Act. This includes councils and council-controlled organisations.
The Act has 13 information privacy principles, which cover how information is collected, how it’s stored, and how it’s used and disclosed. They include the reasons why personal information may be collected, where it may be collected from, and how it is collected. They also cover the right for individuals to see and correct information that is held about them, and rules to make sure personal information isn’t used or disclosed inappropriately.
Councils collect and hold information through roles like managing rates, dog registration and issuing building consents. The Privacy Act applies to all this information, and any other information Council gathers as part of its role. If you have any concerns about the information Council holds on you, contact Council’s Privacy Officer by emailing PrivacyOfficer@horowhenua.govt.nz.
If you would like to know more about privacy and your rights please visit the Privacy Commissioner's Office website.
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