New Zealand Classic Car - - EDITORIAL -

Fre­quently, I get phone calls ask­ing if a clas­sic car that’s be­ing ad­ver­tised for sale be­longed to Mr X or Mr Y. Or if the par­tic­u­lar car had spent most of its time with a cer­tain fam­ily, in a spe­cific re­gion.

With re­gret, I re­ply that, due to Pri­vacy Act laws I am un­able to con­firm that. Many a time these ques­tions are gen­uine. It would be a case in which a fam­ily mem­ber is try­ing to trace the fam­ily car they grew up with, for ex­am­ple. They may rec­og­nize the ex­te­rior colour, the in­te­rior up­hol­stery, or a club badge that they may get a glimpse of in the pho­tos of the ad­ver­tised car.

So, let’s have a closer look at Pri­vacy Act in New Zealand in re­la­tion to clas­sic and vin­tage ve­hi­cles.

Per­sonal in­for­ma­tion

For those who not fa­mil­iar with it, the Pri­vacy Act 1993 — to give it its full name — con­trols how agen­cies col­lect, use, dis­close, store, and give ac­cess to per­sonal in­for­ma­tion. By ‘per­sonal in­for­ma­tion’, I mean de­tails about iden­ti­fi­able, liv­ing peo­ple.

Al­most ev­ery per­son or or­ga­ni­za­tion that holds per­sonal in­for­ma­tion is con­sid­ered an ‘agency’. So, for ex­am­ple, the Pri­vacy Act cov­ers gov­ern­ment de­part­ments, com­pa­nies of all sizes, re­li­gious groups, schools, and clubs.

Or­ga­ni­za­tions that aren’t cov­ered by the Pri­vacy Act in­clude the most trusted peo­ple in our coun­try, such as Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment (MPS) when they are act­ing as MPS. It in­cludes the most right­eous bod­ies such as courts and tri­bunals, in re­la­tion to their ju­di­cial func­tions. It also in­cludes the hon­est news me­dia when they are con­duct­ing their news ac­tiv­i­ties.

Ap­par­ently, the main prin­ci­ples at the heart of the Pri­vacy Act that cover col­lec­tions of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion are the stor­age and se­cu­rity of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, re­quests for ac­cess to and cor­rec­tion of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, ac­cu­racy of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, re­ten­tion of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, and use and dis­clo­sure of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion.

The Pri­vacy Com­mis­sioner has many re­spon­si­bil­i­ties — in­clud­ing mon­i­tor­ing pro­posed leg­is­la­tion to see if it af­fects the pri­vacy of in­di­vid­u­als, com­ment­ing on any pri­vacy prob­lems, and be­ing con­sulted on pol­icy de­vel­op­ments that have an im­pact on pri­vacy. The Pri­vacy Com­mis­sioner is there to pro­vide ed­u­ca­tion about pri­vacy; to over­see in­for­ma­tion-match­ing pro­grammes; to be aware of tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ments that can af­fect pri­vacy; to is­sue codes of prac­tice, which mod­ify the pri­vacy prin­ci­ples and which ap­ply to a par­tic­u­lar in­dus­try or topic; and to in­ves­ti­gate com­plaints about in­ter­fer­ences with pri­vacy.

An in­ter­fer­ence with pri­vacy can oc­cur when an agency wrong­fully re­fuses to give an in­di­vid­ual ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion about them,

or wrong­fully re­fuses to cor­rect in­for­ma­tion about them, or when an in­di­vid­ual suf­fers some form of harm be­cause of a breach of a pri­vacy prin­ci­ple, rule, or a code of prac­tice or in­for­ma­tion-match­ing pro­vi­sion.

This is only what’s stated on the web­site of course — in re­al­ity, the Pri­vacy Com­mis­sioner can only in­ves­ti­gate a com­plaint from an in­di­vid­ual whose pri­vacy has been af­fected and for which there is ev­i­dence that there may have been an in­ter­fer­ence with their pri­vacy. It may have never dawned on the Pri­vacy Com­mis­sioner that some of these in­di­vid­u­als are dead by now and any breach of their pri­vacy could af­fect other par­ties.

Not al­ways ap­pli­ca­ble

seek per­mis­sion from a pre­vi­ous owner, what hap­pens if that owner is de­ceased? We have to with­hold the pa­per­work of the car — what’s the point?

I’m sure that many of you read­ing this ar­ti­cle will agree with me that hav­ing own­er­ship his­tory with a car is para­mount. It is very ev­i­dent that own­ing a clas­sic car is about tak­ing a trip down mem­ory lane, rather than just own­ing four wheels. Maybe the time has come to re­visit the Pri­vacy Act leg­is­la­tion when it comes to clas­sic cars, mak­ing some al­lowance within these set pa­ram­e­ters.

Hence writ­ing this ar­ti­cle, to gauge the in­ter­est of the au­thor­i­ties con­cerned and to high­light that where it con­cerns clas­sic and vin­tage ve­hi­cles, the Pri­vacy Act may not al­ways be ap­pli­ca­ble! In some ways, it is un­jus­ti­fied to with­hold the prove­nance of a his­toric ve­hi­cle from a fu­ture guardian, when he or she pur­chases that ve­hi­cle, but, on the other hand, it does make sense to with­hold in­for­ma­tion from a nosy tyre-kicker, rel­a­tive, spouse, or heir who does not have gen­uine in­tents for at­tain­ing the in­for­ma­tion.

More ed­u­ca­tion about the sub­ject is needed, to­gether with a more re­al­is­tic ap­proach — clearly one rule doesn’t fit all.

Un­til next time, stay warm and safe driv­ing. I was con­tacted by Pri­vacy Act per­son­nel once be­cause I left a car’s prove­nance with the car, and the new owner de­cided to con­tact its pre­vi­ous owner — just to in­tro­duce him­self as a fu­ture guardian of the car and get more his­tory, etc. But isn’t that what car en­thu­si­asts do? Ap­par­ently, the pre­vi­ous owner didn’t like it, and re­ported to the Pri­vacy Com­mis­sioner that his pri­vacy had been breached.

I feel that the Pri­vacy Act’s ap­proach on his­toric ve­hi­cles needs to be re­con­sid­ered, as any­one buy­ing a his­toric ve­hi­cle would be in­ter­ested to know its story. Their re­ply was that, if I in­tended do­ing that, I should ‘white out’ (i.e., hide) ev­ery name and num­ber on all the his­toric records go­ing with that car — as it is con­sid­ered un­law­ful to pass on own­er­ship de­tails to a buyer without prior con­sent.

So let’s pon­der this! Many a time, the value of a clas­sic car lies in its prove­nance — why should we white out the info? If we have to

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