TRANSDEV AGAINST STUFF

Case Number: 2732

Council Meeting: NOVEMBER 2018

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Stuff

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Confidentiality
Privacy
Unfair Coverage

Overview

Transdev, the Auckland suburban rail operator, complains that a story published byStuff on September 26, 2018 headlined Email update on public transport derailed by addresses going public breaches the Councils principles 1 ( Accuracy, fairness and balance) and 2 (Privacy).

Background

The story covered Transdev’s unintentional release of 1000 email addresses of rail customers as part of the notification of new rail changes.Stuff accessed the email details. It interviewed two affected customers. The story referred to these people’s dismay over the leak. There was no question release of the email details was unintentional. It was an error. Transdev’s unqualified apology was published. The story mentioned Transdev’s intention to adopt a “peer review approval process” in relation to future email distributions.

The Complaint

Transdev says that story breaches the principles because, basically, Stuff itself used the confidential information (the email addresses) to contact particular customers for comment and then to publish the reaction of two of those people to the unintentional leak. Transdev says that Stuff has acted “unethically” by using confidential information which had been unintentionally released to elicit comment from those affected. This further exacerbated the breach of privacy of those involved.

The Response

Stuff does not accept the complaint. There is no breach of principle 1.The story accurately referred to the release of the email details. It made it clear the release was in error. It published Transdev’s apology. Nor doesStuff accept that principal 2 has been breached. Stuff refers to the Privacy Act as allowing media to gather information for the purposes of news reporting.Stuff says that Transdev itself is the only party to have breached the subscribers’ privacy.Stuff was entitled “to offer victims the opportunity to comment on apparent breaches like this so that they are able to express a view about what happened and how it impacted on them”.

The Decision

The Council does not agree with Transdev. The story was balanced, accurate and fair. Further, as far as principle 2 is concerned,Stuff did not publish private information. All it did was contact certain people whose email addresses had entered the public domain rightly or wrongly. The two people whose views were published commented voluntarily.

The complaint is not upheld.

Council members considering the complaint were Sir John Hansen, Liz Brown, Craig Cooper, Jo Cribb, Chris Darlow, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, Jenny Farrell, Hank Schouten, Christina Tay and Tracy Watkins.