LOCAL MARKET REPORT
J ES MON D TAKES A CLOSE LOOK AT THE PRIVACY ACT IN NEW ZEALAND IN REGARDS TO CLASSIC AND VINTAGE CARS AND CONCLUDES THAT ONE RULE DOESN’ T FIT ALL
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.
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