Journalist Nicky Hager has claimed victory over Westpac, after the bank settled and apologised over a privacy breach claim.
The case stemmed from Hager’s book Dirty Politics that included the unlawful raid on his home in 2014. During the same year, Westpac had disclosed Hager’s financial information to Police. Now, Westpac has agreed to pay his costs and compensation. Under the settlement agreement, the bank will also significantly tighten its contractual terms in relation to the release of customer information to government agencies, including the Police.
“From now on, if the Police ask Westpac for information about its customers, Westpac will only confirm whether or not that person is its customer. It will not provide any other customer information except with either a production order, the customer's consent, where it is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious threat to health or safety, or as required by law,” a release by Hager’s lawyers from Terrace Chambers said.
“This is an important victory for privacy in New Zealand. It will help many people,” Hager said. “Four years ago, when this story first broke, a wide range of New Zealanders expressed strong concern about the idea that a person’s banking data could be taken without a warrant.
“I was confident we were going to prevail before the Human Rights Review Tribunal, but that was likely to have been several years away still. Westpac have done the right thing here by owning up to the breach and putting in place much better procedures to protect against it happening again,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Hager’s lawyer Felix Geiringer said the case settles Hager’s last ongoing dispute stemming from the 2014 raid but is not the last word on this privacy issue. He noted pressure needs to continue on banks and other institutions holding private data.
“Westpac’s new terms look good, but what about the other banks?” Geiringer added. “In 2014, they had the same arrangement with the Police as did Westpac. We do not know that anything has changed.”