Wanting more money from ACC for privacy breach

September 30th, 2012 at 3:30 pm by David Farrar

The SST reports:

Sex abuse survivors are planning to sue to force a significantly boosted payout for breaching their privacy in the ongoing Bronwyn Pullar whistleblower saga.

ACC sent apology letters in June to sensitive-claims clients and offered to pay them $250 if they agreed to stay silent, after one of New Zealand’s biggest privacy breaches in August last year.

The “insulting” offer came after ACC mistakenly released the names and details of 6500 claimants, including 250 sensitive-claims clients who are victims of sexual abuse and violent crimes, to claimant Pullar.

Wellington lawyer John Miller, a specialist in taking on ACC, said more than 100 claimants affected by the massive Pullar breach had approached him to take the case. He said those wanting to pursue ACC were sensitive claimants who generally had long simmering feelings of being poorly treated by the ACC system.

Although a claimant with a normal injury could shrug off the privacy breach, for sensitive claimants “this is the last straw”.

“It’s a corrosive environment they are in with ACC, frankly. The people I have spoken to, they are insulted by $250, it is a derisory amount for the torment they have gone through.”

Worse was ACC’s requirement that claimants sign a confidentially agreement if they took the payment. “They feel they are being told ‘now go away and shut up and sign a document to say you are going to shut up forever more’.”

He said that although technically class action claims were not possible in New Zealand, the process worked with one claim taken and if it won it set a precedent. ACC would be asked to settle with everyone, or face losing case after case with legal costs compounding the settlement payouts.

He said the process had worked before and usually ACC saw sense.

Miller would not be drawn on what level of compensation would satisfy claimants, but said past privacy breaches had won payouts of anything from $2000 to $40,000. It depended on the severity of the consequences.

In 2003 he said ACC paid $8000 for sending a man’s earnings details to his wife, resulting in divorce because he had kept his income secret from her.

A large amount is appropriate when there has been significant harm from the privacy breach.

But bearing in mind it is employees, employers and motorists who will effectively pay for any compensation, let us look at the harm done in this breach.

One person in Auckland, a stranger to all these people, was sent a spreadsheet with some details about them. The report into the breach details what this info was:

  • Client Name
  • Claim Number
  • Branch handling claim
  • Review number

No information beyond that was disclosed. So yes it did breach privacy by revealing they were a client of ACC, they they were having their claim reviewed, and which branch was handling their claim – which can reveal it was a sensitive claim.

This is not inconsequential, but neither it is in any way detailed. And this was a breach not on a website, but to one person.

I’m not convinced the offers of $250 is inappropriate.

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25 Responses to “Wanting more money from ACC for privacy breach”

  1. Brian Smaller (3,999 comments) says:

    People looking to extort more money from the state. The information was meaningless to 99.99% of the population. I think they should be thankful for $250.

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  2. Anthony (768 comments) says:

    Totally agree Brian.

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  3. Johnboy (15,011 comments) says:

    The real crime is that we are paying our hard earned dosh to keep a bunch of useless, dysfunctional losers in bloody employment at the ACC and that goes for the Minister down to the damn janitor.

    Privatise worker insurance and sack the lot of the ACC drones.

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  4. B A W (98 comments) says:

    Was the stuff sent to Wikileaks and made public to everyone?. – No
    Was the information detailed? – No
    Damage caused by publicising this in the media – priceless.

    Amount offered in compensation by Govt $250.
    Amount offered in compensation by media – $0

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  5. PaulD (97 comments) says:

    “”It would have been far better not to offer an amount at all in many cases rather than a derisory sum.” John Miller http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/117019/claimants-to-sue-over-%27derisory%27-acc-offer

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  6. m@tt (588 comments) says:

    “I’m not convinced the offers of $250 is inappropriate”

    You may or may not be convinced, however if someone at ACC had given it a moments thought they would have realised that offering $250 was basically a big ‘fuck you’ to the people who’s privacy they had breeched. Make it a couple of thousand and most if not all would have signed the waiver/non-disclosure and we all could have moved on.

    ACC are the authors of their own misfortune here and I have no sympathy for them or the fact that a few cents of my ACC contribution will go to this. I’m sure the PR team they will be paying to (mis)manage this will be charging more than what a decent, quiet and private settlement would have cost in the first place.

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  7. Brian Smaller (3,999 comments) says:

    I think the fact that sexual abuse is treated as an accident is problem enough. If the scheme was a proper worker’s insurance, there would be none of that rubbish.

    m@tt – disagree. I think they should have offered nothing. Are you telling me you have never attached the wrong document to an email? It happens. Tough shit.

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  8. MH (635 comments) says:

    I suppose the claimants will take the claim for stress and hurt feelings to the very same assessors and to the very sane person in ACC who started it all. He/she is probably on ACC as well,not that well is good.

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  9. bhudson (4,734 comments) says:

    In fairness Brian, I don’t think the claimants become sexual abuse victims on purpose…

    And if it was solely a workers’ insurance scheme then we’d end up with the wonderful situation of rugby players suing the council because the field was not 100% and therefore the cause of their twisted joints and torn ligaments. Similarly the cricketer suing same because the bounce was not perfectly even and that is why the leather thwacked upon the nose bone instead of the willow.

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  10. PaulD (97 comments) says:

    Sending the spreadsheet to someone outside the ACC is just one part of it. It should never have been circulated with names attached.

    ” The sensitive claims unit client said ACC repeatedly breached name suppression in the privacy breach by sending names and details of sexual-violence victims to at least 50 ACC staff who should not have received them.

    Her letter from ACC says the corporation now removes the names of clients from spreadsheets before sending them out. “

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  11. Johnboy (15,011 comments) says:

    “And if it was solely a workers’ insurance scheme then we’d end up with the wonderful situation of rugby players suing the council because the field was not 100%”

    Not if the useless oval ball chasers sign a waiver that they take part in their bloody stupid sport at their own risk bh.

    That’s assuming the dumb bastards can write of course. :)

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  12. bhudson (4,734 comments) says:

    Ah johnboy, but you see it would not have been the sport that caused their injury, but the negligence of the local body authority, through their employee or agent to failed to ensure that the ground was prepared such that the accident would have been prevented…

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  13. Johnboy (15,011 comments) says:

    If they sign a waiver it covers it bh. Other than that we just stop oval ball chasing.

    I for one won’t miss having to watch retards dancing about and poking out their tongues at other folks! :)

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  14. Kevin (1,122 comments) says:

    Or they could suck it up and get over it.

    But hey government … Stop paying out millions of dollars in secret compo deals each year just to save your sorry arses.

    If someone in govt stiffs up let them pay out of their own pocket, not the taxpayer’s.

    Most people seeking compo from the government are just following the first law of compensation – “it’s always the fault of the organisation with the deepest pockets”

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  15. Yvette (2,692 comments) says:

    Surely for anyone to successfully sue in this case, they would need to prove Bronwyn Pullar disclosed the information to other people, or copied it or failed to delect it from her computer, before retuning the information [which was names only] to ACC, admittedly months later.

    It is also inconsistent with the fact that one ‘client’ was officially apologized to by more ACC officials than she had been officially told had access to her file and name.

    [ after thought – won't the demands of some 'clients' likely indicate a level of failure in the counseling ACC has presumably being paying for? ]

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  16. Johnboy (15,011 comments) says:

    Yuh got to love it how leachers and no-account bludgers are clients these days. :)

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  17. trout (904 comments) says:

    Is ‘ambulance chaser’, John Miller, on legal aid for this? or contingency?

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  18. pq (728 comments) says:

    poor little New Zealand heading towards Greece and the failing socialist states

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  19. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    $250 is a pittance for gross incompetence. Look at the way ACC handled this fiasco, bringing in police and claiming that Pullar was threatening ACC which, it seems, lied to police. We can only imagine what some of these claimants have been through. Why the confidentiality clause?

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  20. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    “Ms Armstrong says some of the claimants had had their privacy breached up to three times and a $250 offer for everyone affected was not acceptable.”

    Hmmm so multiple breaches is worth $250 and silence? I don’t think so.

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  21. Nookin (3,037 comments) says:

    I think we have to bear in mind that the compensation is just that — compensation for breach of privacy. It is not a fine or punishment for incompetence, cover-up, lying or whatever. All those wrong-doings, to the extent that they are established, affect us all and not just the few whose names were disclosed.

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  22. KH (687 comments) says:

    $250 is too much. $0 is the right figure.
    Compare.
    You can phone your local hospital and ask if somebody is there. They will tell you. And thats entirely reasonable in my opinion.

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  23. cubit (356 comments) says:

    It seems that the only means of righting a wrong is tho seek and get money. Does money really solve every issue?

    I notice the lawyers are circling like Kites and are now complaining that they were not consulted in order to assist claimants. I guess that being the case, $250 is certainly not enough. It wouldn’t cover the first interview with the lawyers that specialise in these matters.Oh well I guess the resdt of us should just pay up and shut up and let these cariing advocates get on with their well paid business.

    I think the inevitable long drawn out, and favoured by lawyers process will simply extend the period of hurt suffered by the victims.

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  24. Chris2 (758 comments) says:

    The answer is simple. The ACC should revert to communicating by posted letter only – no more e-mails, no more electronic attachments, and if a claimant wants their file they must make arrangements themselves to have it collected.

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  25. Paulus (2,503 comments) says:

    How does the Lotto advert go

    “Show Me The Money”. Acc better than no prize – am entitled cos……………..

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