The past few days have seen brands and personalities quit Facebook, and now New Zealand’s privacy commissioner has joined the fore.
In a post for The Spinoff, John Edwards explains what was once a place to kill time on Farmville and catch up with friends had turned into a platform that breaks the country’s privacy laws.
Following revelations of Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of personal Facebook data, Edwards said his office requested the social network to release data about what information it holds about users as part of an investigation. Facebook refused, allegedly saying it wasn’t subject to New Zealand’s privacy laws, and therefore had no obligation to provide it.
Leaving the commissioner with no other option, the office named Facebook in breach of New Zealand’s privacy act on Wednesday.
“The Commissioner’s investigations are almost always confidential, but he considers it necessary to publicly identify Facebook in order to highlight its demonstrated unwillingness to comply with the law, and to inform the New Zealand public of Facebook’s position,” the office said in a statement online.
In a statement to The Guardian, a Facebook spokesperson said the office’s request was overly broad.
“We are disappointed that the New Zealand privacy commissioner asked us to provide access to a year’s worth of private data belonging to several people and then criticised us for protecting their privacy.”
“We scrutinise all requests to disclose personal data, particularly the contents of private messages, and will challenge those that are overly broad.
“We have investigated the complaint from the person who contacted the commissioner’s office but we haven’t been provided enough detail to fully resolve it.”
Edwards said he is essentially powerless to do more about it under current laws, but a potential future court case could be used to examine what obligations the company has under New Zealand law. In the meantime, Edwards has deleted his Facebook account.
“Every New Zealander has the right to find out what information an agency holds about them. It is a right of constitutional significance,” he wrote.