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Complain about a privacy breach

You can complain if your personal information is being revealed without your agreement or if an organisation refuses to let you see information about you.

If you think your privacy has been breached call the Privacy Commissioner enquiries line on 0800 803 909.

When you can complain

You can complain when:

  • you’ve been asked for and given information that you think isn’t appropriate or necessary
  • you’re concerned about how your information is stored
  • your personal information has been revealed to someone else
  • an organisation won’t release information it has about you
  • an organisation is holding information about you that’s wrong and they won’t change it
  • your personal details (for example, your IRD number, passport details) have been shared with another organisation without your consent.

What do you want to happen?

Before you complain to an organisation or the Privacy Commissioner you need to work out how you want your complaint resolved. You can ask for:

  • an apology
  • a guarantee that the same thing won’t happen again
  • financial compensation.

How to complain

Contact the organisation first

All organisations that hold personal information must have a privacy policy and a privacy officer. You can find out how to contact them on their website.

If you contact the organisation by phone make sure you take a note of:

  • when you called
  • who you spoke to
  • what you discussed
  • the response you got.

You can also record the call for your records but you must let them know you’re recording it.

If you write or email, keep copies.

If you’re not happy about the response you can make a formal complaint to the Privacy Commissioner.

Make a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner

Complain to the Privacy Commissioner

What the Privacy Commissioner will do

The Privacy Commissioner will decide if they think your privacy has been breached.

If they think a breach has occurred they may try to settle it.

If that doesn’t work they’ll carry out a formal investigation. They’ll keep everyone informed of how the investigation is going and allow you to respond.

They’ll then issue their opinion. This opinion isn’t legally binding but is usually taken seriously.

Other help if your complaint can’t be resolved

If the Privacy Commissioner has found that your privacy has been breached but can’t resolve the issue, they can refer it to the Director of Human Rights Proceedings in the Human Rights Commission. The Director can decide to take the matter to the Human Rights Review Tribunal on your behalf.

Human Rights Review Tribunal

If the Privacy Commissioner doesn’t think your privacy has been breached you can still take your complaint to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

Community law centres

You can get free independent advice from Community law centres.

If you’re eligible, they may also be able to:

  • offer ongoing legal assistance
  • help you with mediation
  • represent you at tribunals or in court.

Citizens Advice Bureau

They offer online information about areas of law where people often have problems — eg consumer issues, housing, jobs, families and money.

Health and disability commission

They specialise in health and medical complaints.

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