Privacy Legislation

A while back, in a large storm, a tree fell on my parents’ house (on the roof over their bedroom, to be precise). My parents were not contactable, and therefore, I decided to ring the insurance company to try and get someone to take the tree off the roof and fix the hole.

“I’m sorry, we’re not at liberty to talk to you for privacy reasons,” said the woman on the other end of the line. I explained that I could not get in contact with my parents and that the tree needed to be taken off the roof. I was happy to send in my birth certificate to prove that I was actually their child (seems ridiculous, but there you go). No, still not good enough. In the end, I called the insurance brokers, who were understanding about the whole situation and contacted the insurance company on my behalf. The tree was taken off the roof.

Well, of course I want my details to be private, but there is common sense as well. Sometimes it seems that organisations use the privacy laws as an excuse not to have to deal with your problem. It is really very irritating, and such obstructiveness serves no useful purpose. It just adds to the irritating bureaucratic red tape of life.

I wonder how well the privacy laws work anyway? They don’t seem to stop those people who call up at dinner time trying to get you to change phone providers. The people almost always seem to be calling from a call centre in India. But obviously the details gained by this invasion of privacy are not necessarily accurate. One of these gentlemen was convinced that my name was “Mrs. Foo” (it is not). We had a 10 minute argument about my identity, and after all that, I did not want to change phone providers. It is always a challenge to get rid of these people politely but firmly. We don’t get so many calls any more; perhaps I am on a phone spam black list. Now, there’s an invasion of privacy that I don’t mind.

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5 Comments

Filed under law, privacy, society

5 responses to “Privacy Legislation

  1. Kevin

    Not sure I wholeheartedly agree. The inconvenience caused by privacy legislation is relatively less than the threat of misuse of private information if there were a free for all.

  2. Anthony

    Right with you, sister. It’s the little things. My gal and I have mobile phones which are on the same plan. The plan is in my name, because I thought of it first. She is unable to access any information about her phone without me making the call. Granted, this ensures that I remain necessary, and gives me a sense of manliness and achievement. But still.

    Obviously I agree that misuse of private information is a social ill to be avoided. However, the sorts of people who are likely to willingly dish out private information are generally not the sort of people who would either read or care about the legislation.

    By contrast, the legislation seems to have been gleefully adopted by individuals and bodies who were already inclined towards obstructionist behaviour, and now have a rock solid legal excuse. Until you subpoena their sorry behinds, yo. Try to skip around IPP 2.1(f), you scum-sucking pigs!

  3. Legal Eagle

    In response to Kevin’s comment – of course privacy needs to be protected, but is this legislation the way to achieve that? I suspect not. As Anthony says, people who want to breach privacy aren’t going to care about the Act. Instead, it just seems to be used as an excuse by painful bureaucracies as to why they shouldn’t help you at all.

    Further, I don’t think privacy is better protected after the Act – although my example of “spam callers” was somewhat tongue in cheek, the point is that my privacy is being breached there, and there ain’t a lot I can do about it. I don’t even know how they got my number or the information that I might be “Mrs Foo”. I certainly don’t have the funds to sue the b@stards, who are probably out of the jurisdiction anyway. I believe there is now legislation to deal with spam callers. A lawyer I know routinely answers these calls by citing the legislation and then saying “Are you aware that you are breaking the law?” – I’ll have to get the details of the section from him.

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