Privacy Case Note 03-2017 (Resolution)

Case note number:  03-17

Privacy principles:  Information Privacy Principles 8 and 11

The complaint

A local government was prosecuting a resident for an infraction of a local law. An administrative error by the local government identified a neighbour of the resident as the source of a complaint that led to the prosecution. This information came to light in the attendant court processes. The local government acknowledged that this information was not correct; the complainant had not made such a complaint.

The resident could not be persuaded that the neighbour had not made the complaint that resulted in their prosecution. This caused a significant breakdown in their relationship to the point that contact between the two parties was unpleasant and the neighbour took active steps to avoid contact including not utilising the backyard.

After first making their privacy complaint to the local government, the neighbour brought their privacy complaint to the Office of the Information Commissioner.

The local government acknowledged that it had breached the complainant’s privacy and actively engaged in mediation discussions on potential remedies. For their part, the complainant stated that they did not want a sum of financial compensation but they did want to be able to enjoy their home and garden spaces as they had before this incident.

An agreement was reached whereby the local government:

  • Formally apologised to the complainant for its error.
  • Formally wrote to the resident advising them of the error and making it clear in unequivocal terms that the complainant had not made the complaint.
  • Provided the complainant with a copy of this letter.
  • Agreed to pay for an improved fence to be erected on the boundaries between the complainant’s and resident’s properties – it was noted that this provided an improved measure of privacy for both the complainant and the resident.
  • Agreed to pay for a video security system to be installed at the complainant’s property.

While the sum for the remedial work was not insignificant, the payment went directly to relevant tradespeople and the payment was for the exact amount of the work. The complainant received no financial benefit themselves. The complaint was resolved on this basis.

The local government’s willingness to work with the complainant and the complainant’s own focus on real and practical remedies were instrumental in the resolution of this matter.