16 Jul 2018

'Not out of the woods on data issues just yet' - Privacy Commissioner

6:29 pm on 16 July 2018

By Madison Reidy, Business Reporter

The Privacy Commissioner is more confident Facebook will abide by New Zealand law after meeting with its executives.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards says Facebook is not complying with the Act.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards says Facebook is not complying with the Act. Photo: RNZ

Commissioner John Edwards had a closed-door meeting with Facebook's vice president and general counsel in San Francisco, at the social media giant's request.

He said Facebook reassured him it had taken numerous steps to improve its privacy measures since breaches earlier this year.

"I was given reassurances that Facebook is investing heavily ... to ensure that their community is better informed, that members have better access to tools to assert control over their personal information."

Mr Edwards clashed publicly with Facebook in April, when it refused to cooperate with his investigation into a complaint.

The social media giant refused to give Mr Edwards private messages sent between users on its platform, and its global deputy chief privacy officer, Stephen Deadman, said it did not have to hand over the content because New Zealand Facebook was run out of Ireland.

It was subject to Irish data protection laws, not New Zealand's Privacy Act.

Mr Edwards said Facebook was party to New Zealand privacy law because it had more than 2 million users here and profited from their information, and called its attitude "mischievous, misleading, and disingenuous".

Another breach was still possible, Mr Edwards said.

"I don't think anyone is saying there's a clean bill of health, or that, you know, we're not out of the woods on data issues just yet."

When asked if Facebook had its heart in the right place, Mr Edwards said it was a corporation and "did not have organs."

Facebook's privacy spokesperson for New Zealand could not comment, but its updated terms and conditions for New Zealand users came into effect on Saturday.