EQC asks court to plug leak on blog

LIAM HYSLOP
Last updated 07:28 14/11/2013
Marc Krieger
FACING LEGAL ACTION: Marc Krieger

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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The Earthquake Commission (EQC) leaks blogger ignored a court order preventing publication of 83,000 confidential client details, commission lawyers say.

EQC Truths blogger Marc Krieger was not in the High Court in Wellington yesterday to defend a civil lawsuit brought against him by the commission for breach of confidence.

Krieger was served with an interim injunction in April that he breached, Pheroze Jagose, acting on behalf of EQC, told the court. This was a breach of privacy not in the public interest and had led to people on a spreadsheet of EQC Christchurch earthquake clients being subjected to nasty comments online, Jagose said.

"The sort of comments which have been coming out of this blog, where one neighbour has commented on another neighbour's treatment [by EQC]," Jagose said.

"This is plainly about the identification of individuals and the sort of egregious comment which can stem from that."

Justice Collins said the issue was a combination of whether the information was private and commercially sensitive, and whether a person could normally have obtained this information through the Official Information Act.

Jagose argued that they could not have as the information was private and commercially sensitive, and would not have been released under the Official Information Act.

EQC was not seeking damages; rather, a declaration of liability and a permanent injunction on the information in the spreadsheet.

In early April, Krieger, a former EQC employee who now lives in Switzerland, was leaked a confidential spreadsheet detailing client and claim information for 83,000 EQC clients.

On April 5, he posted: "My intention is not to post the details of every claimant on a public forum like EQC Truths, as I wish to respect the privacy of every individual."

He instead offered a service to EQC clients where they could send him their details and he would give them their information from the spreadsheet.

On April 8, the High Court ordered a temporary injunction to stop this.

Krieger then posted: "I steadfastly believe in the principle that upholding the rule of law is sacrosanct and I will abide by the High Court's ruling, as personally disagreeable as it is to me.

"I had the opportunity to publish the entire database for all to see, but I chose to err on the side of caution by safeguarding the data and created a laborious procedure for verifying the identity of the recipients of the information."

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He wrote to the High Court to challenge the ruling and ask for a one-week extension to prepare his case but this was dismissed and the injunction was extended.

It led to a change in stance from Krieger, who on April 9 posted: "I conclude that the High Court has acted unlawfully and exceeded its lawfully constituted powers.

"Consequently, the High Court's ruling is mere dictum and I reject it with the contempt it deserves. Given EQC's malevolent and underhanded manoeuvres masquerading as legal tactics, I shall release the entire database within the next 24 hours."

He posted several links to where people could access the full spreadsheet.

Justice Collins reserved his decision.

Krieger also faces contempt of court proceedings brought against him by the solicitor-general. Fairfax NZ

- The Press

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