NZ Post survey still raising ire

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 05:00 19/07/2011

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Complaints about a new New Zealand Post survey are flooding in to the privacy commissioner, despite it being redesigned to allay concerns.

A similar survey in 2009 was deemed a "systematic, large-scale breach" of privacy principles in two reports carried out for Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff, acting on complaints.

The original survey asked participants their names and addresses, and more than 50 multi-choice questions on subjects ranging from their preferred petrol station and favourite magazine to their mortgage rate, credit card limit and partner's income.

Cash and prizes were offered to entice people to fill out the survey, but once collected, the names and addressees of participants were rented out to commercial clients in New Zealand and overseas.

The information was also used, along with other data, to help compile a NZ Post marketing device called Genius that includes colour-coded maps classifying the population into segments such as "cream of the crop", "on the bread line" and "Pacific blend".

The 2011 survey released last month is the product of a redesign but has still drawn complaints.

Ms Shroff said about 20 people had contacted her to express strong dissatisfaction with the survey. This was a significant number of calls about a single topic and she understood other complaints agencies had received similar messages.

In a letter to NZ Post chief executive Brian Roche in May, Ms Shroff said although some issues raised with the 2009 survey had been addressed, she still had concerns. "The survey attempts to collect a massive amount of detailed and sensitive personal information using a competition to entice New Zealanders to participate."

NZ Post spokesman Michael Tull said the company had received 63 contacts from the public seeking further information or complaining about the survey, far fewer than in 2009.

The company had listened to the concerns raised by Ms Shroff, but was comfortable the purpose of the 2011 survey had been explained clearly, he said.

"We have taken the concerns raised by the privacy commissioner seriously and considered the points that she raised, but – with respect – we do not agree with her view of the survey."

NZ Post also gathers information from other services, including mail redirection and applications for post office boxes, and licenses the data to third parties.

Figures requested under the Official Information Act show that revenue from this has more than tripled since 2008.

NZ Post reportedly receives 70c for each set of details sold to direct marketing companies. Revenue for licensing information gathered from customers totalled $383,809 in 2008, but has already reached $1.33m in 2011.

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NZ Post refused to reveal the parties that have the information.

- The Dominion Post

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