Privacy breach a crime - council
JODY O'CALLAGHAN AND SHELLEY ROBINSON
Personal medical information, bankruptcy details and addresses are among the material in hundreds of old city council documents being found in Christchurch streets.
The Christchurch City Council infringement notices, which include documents from residents disputing fines for unpaid parking, out-of-date warrant of fitness and car registrations, have been found in recent days around Re:Start Mall and nearby streets.
The documents, dating from 2001 to 2009, were stored at the top of the council-owned Lichfield St car park building.
The city council says the documents were locked up and blames a "criminal act" for their release. The council has notified police and the Privacy Commissioner of the breach.
Council facilities and infrastructure director David Adamson last night said the storage closet had been secured.
"At this time four cardboard boxes were found in an unsecured position on the rooftop of the building. The room which had been secured by a latch and lock appeared forced and was insecure.
"We believe this breach was the result of a criminal act in that a secure council facility has been unlawfully entered as the room was secured earlier in the day."
The car park has been abandoned since the 2011 earthquakes but is popular with skateboarders and vagrants.
Early yesterday evening the front roll-up door to the car park was still up a few centimetres and had not been secured.
The infringement notices have personal details stapled to the back of them from people appealing parking fines.
As supporting information on some are letters from Canterbury District Health Board social workers, cancer wards and neo-natal units asking for parking fines to be waived.
A description of the medical conditions is included.
Some included credit checks and bankruptcy details.
A Privacy Commission spokesman said an investigation could be conducted if a member of the public complained or if the commissioner decided the circumstances warranted it.
He said the city council told the commission it was following commission guidelines for security breaches.
Guidelines include notifying people affected by the breach if necessary, "accept the blame" if the organisation is at fault and "containing the breach".
Adamson said if people were concerned about the privacy breach they should contact the council.
A Christchurch lawyer, who declined to be named, said she was "appalled" her $12 parking fine from July 2001 could have been seen by anyone.
"I don't know whose hands that information ended up in.
"I would want that destroyed," she said.
Adamson said the documents would be destroyed. He appealed for the public to hand them in.
Paul Hannagan's parking fine document from 2001 was among those found, but his reaction was one of humour and forgiveness.
"I'm a bit puzzled that this has happened, but it's just a $12 infringement notice and I'm sure I paid it."
The Privacy Act requires personal information is protected against unauthorised loss and use, access or disclosure.
- The Press