Privacy in your hands 

You might be aware that various organisations hold personal information about you (for example the Police know the details of dealings you’ve had with them, your DHB knows what health services of theirs you’ve used, and your credit card provider knows how big your credit card debt is).

But did you know that you have a right to access this information? The theme for Privacy Awareness Week 9-14 May 2016 is "Privacy in your hands".

According to the Privacy Act, if an agency (that is, organisation, individual or business) holds personal information about you then you have the right to: 
  • get confirmation that they hold that information and
  • request access to that information.
If some of the information is wrong, you also have the right to request that it is corrected.
It’s important to know about these rights, because this kind of information can influence whether you get that loan you’ve applied for, an insurer’s decision about your application for life insurance, or even whether you get that job offer.

You can make your request by contacting the organisation who holds the information - the Privacy Commissioner has an online tool which emails your request to the organisation and also sends you a copy for your records. In general, the agency has to respond to your request within 20 days of receiving your request.

A public sector agency cannot charge you for fulfilling your request. A private sector agency can charge you but only for reasonable costs. More about this is on the Privacy Commissioner website.

If the agency refuses to provide the information you have asked for, and don’t have a good reason for the refusal, you can make a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner.

It is also well worth requesting a copy your credit history, as this kind of information can be accessed by lenders, phone and power companies, landlords, insurers and employers. You can find out how to do this by visiting our Credit Checks and Records page.