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Source: Privacy Commissioner

Organisations are obligated to give people access to personal information held about them, says Privacy Commissioner Michael Webster.

September 28 is international Right to Know Day. It is dedicated to raising awareness of the legal right New Zealanders have to see the information that organisations hold about them, and request it be corrected it if it is wrong, under the Privacy Act.

Mr Webster said recent research by his Office showed only half of New Zealanders know they have the right to access their own information.

“At the same time, more than 80 percent of complaints we get from people are in relation to this issue.”

Either they were unable to access their own information, the information they were provided was wrong or missing details, corrections were ignored or misapplied, the organisation took too long, or it simply refused the request altogether, Mr Webster said.

“There was a debt management company that mistakenly associated a person’s name with the debts of another for more than two years; a prisoner who changed location so never received their information; an uncertain retailer that stopped responding entirely because they were unsure what to do, and a health provider that needed reminding that both parents can generally access their young child’s information.

“None of these are acceptable.”

Personal information can include simple details such as your name, address and your pay slips. It can also include any sensitive records such as medical test results and notes.

Our Office makes it easy for people to find out what organisations know about them by using its free online AboutMe tool, Mr Webster said.

The tool steps people through a simple process, enabling them to go directly to New Zealand organisations to request their own information.

“So if you want to know what information an organisation holds about you, just ask. You have a right to know.”

Larger agencies familiar with personal information requests are more likely to have processes that ensure they capture all the detail they need to respond to these kinds of requests. However, this might not be the case with smaller businesses, clubs and societies.

All organisations must have someone who fulfils the role of a privacy officer. In smaller organisations, the manager may be responsible for all legal compliance, including privacy.

Visit our website,, for further information about the Privacy Act including the rules for allowing people to access their own personal information.

Media queries can be directed to Office of the Privacy Commissioner media contact: Jared Nicoll at or 021 959 050.