2 Oct 2018

NZ Post's audio recordings practice deemed 'unsettling'

6:13 pm on 2 October 2018

New Zealand Post has stopped the audio recording of posties who drive delivery vehicles after being told the practice is intrusive, unsettling, and unreasonable.

The Paxster - the new vehicle for posties, who will be expected to start picking up parcels from homes.

The Paxster delivery vehicles recorded audio via cameras installed inside. Photo: RNZ / Max Towle

The company previously suspended the recordings, following a complaint from the Postal Workers Union who said they breached privacy.

The Privacy Commissioner has just released the results of a subsequent investigation, which backs the union's argument.

The investigation was launched after an official complaint was made by a postie, who said he had been unfairly recorded by New Zealand Post.

"An NZ Post delivery agent complained to us about audio recordings made by cameras installed on "Paxster" electric delivery vehicles," said the Office of the Privacy Commissioner in a statement.

"His team leader had confronted him about phone calls he had made during his mail run and conversations he had had with members of the public. He was shocked and upset as he was unaware that the cameras had an audio capacity."

The investigation found that much of the recordings were taken of personal conversations, which breached the Privacy Act.

New Zealand Post said the recordings were an important tool for investigating accidents that may have occurred during the delivery round.

However, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner said it was unconvinced the recordings were necessary for safety purposes.

"Thousands of hours of footage were being collected about the delivery agents and members of the public, and yet there were relatively few accidents. It was not clear that the audio recordings would prevent accidents from happening or provide information that would lead to changes in safety policies."

The Office said the recordings had breached the postie's privacy and had caused him emotional harm.

"In our view, the need to investigate possible incidents and accidents needed to be balanced with the Delivery Agents' right to maintain a reasonable degree of privacy and dignity, and that of the people with whom they interact as they make their round," it said.

"The delivery agents spend a considerable amount of time in the Paxster vehicles and it would be unsettling for them, and unreasonably intrusive, to record audio during the entire time a Paxster is being driven."