18 Oct 2018

Phone recordings: what's legal and what's not

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:22 pm on 18 October 2018
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Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Yesterday National Party MP Jami-Lee Ross released a recording of a phone call between himself and party leader Simon Bridges.

What does New Zealand law say about people secretly recording and which privacy rights come into play?

The general rule of is that you can't record somebody without them knowing as it could be a breach of privacy and/or a breach of the law of confidence, says privacy expert Dr Nicole Moreham.

"The question then becomes whether there a public interest in the content of the recording that is strong enough to outweigh the privacy interest or confidentiality interest.

"You have to show that for some reason the person you're playing it to has a legitimate interest in receiving it."

Public interest can be hard to define, she says.

"Serious criminal conduct would be on the list, wrongdoing, matters which affect public health and safety … but those are all subject to interpretation and can be manipulated depending on the circumstances."

Dr Nicole Moreham is an Associate Professor at Victoria University's Faculty of Law.

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