1 Dec 2014

Facebook info stolen, tribunal told

6:36 pm on 1 December 2014

Credit union NZCU Baywide has been accused of stealing the private information of a former employee from Facebook and sharing it with recruitment agencies in an effort to destroy her career.

Facebook logo and keyboard

Photo: AFP

Karen Hammond is alleging breach of privacy at a Human Rights Review Tribunal Hearing in Napier against the customer-owned credit union which has assets of over $250 million.

Miss Hammond broke down when delivering her opening statement, describing how she baked a cake with swear words about NZCU Baywide to cheer up a friend who had been in dispute with the credit union and posted it to her private Facebook page.

"I made a cake and iced it with my feelings. I took it to a private dinner party in a private home to cheer up a friend. I loaded the picture of the cake to my private Facebook page to show my friends and family. I intimately know every person I am friends with and am very particular about my privacy settings," she told the court.

NZCU Baywide

NZCU Baywide Photo: RNZ / Peter Fowler

Miss Hammond told the tribunal her case was "based on malicious intent to destroy my career with complete disregard to the law to achieve their sick objective."

She alleged the case showed flagrant and reprehensible breaches of five principles of the Privacy Act.

"To be clear, due to my privacy settings the information could not be easily obtainable. In fact they had to complete a stand over to obtain it. If I placed this photo in an album and placed it in my lounge did they not break my door down to reach it?" she said.

Miss Hammond said a senior NZCU Baywide manager bullied a staff member into signing into her Facebook account to obtain a picture of the cake.

NZCU Baywide then sent the image to recruitment agencies telling them not to employ her, she said.

Miss Hammond said the credit union also tried to get her fired by her new employer Financepoint and when he refused they cut off his business.

"The evidence will show they demanded my employer fire me under the 90 day rule to reach their objective. The evidence will show that my employer explained to them after receiving legal advice, that he could not complete any such action without adverse results to both Financepoint and NZCU Baywide.

"And then, unbelievably, after still not getting their own way, they halted business with my employer's business to ensure that my employment would be untenable. You will see the emails in which they offered member money to break the law," she said.

NZCU Baywide is yet to give an opening statement.

The hearing continues before the three person tribunal consisting of Brian Neeson, chair Rodger Haines, QC, and Wendy Gilchrist.