'Disappointed' Facebook hits back at Privacy Commissioner

Facebook has responded to the Privacy Commissioner's allegation it breached the Privacy Act, claiming it has been attacked for protecting the privacy of its users.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards said the company refused to cooperate with an investigation from his office, telling him it was not subject to the Privacy Act.

"I'm concerned that the response of the company was to deny it is covered by a law which applies in the jurisdiction that it gathers up the personal information of 2.5 million New Zealanders," Mr Edwards said earlier.

"I think most New Zealanders would expect a company operating at that scale in this country would be subject to local law."

The Commissioner has made the case public to warn of Facebook's "demonstrated unwillingness to comply with the law, and to inform the New Zealand public of Facebook's position".

However Facebook has since struck back, saying Mr Edwards' request was "intrusive" and "overly broad".

"We are disappointed that the New Zealand Privacy Commissioner asked us to provide access to a year's worth of private data belonging to several people and then criticised us for protecting their privacy," a spokeswoman said in a statement.

"We scrutinise all requests to disclose personal data, particularly the contents of private messages, and will challenge those that are overly broad. We have investigated the complaint from the person who contacted the Commissioner's office but we haven't been provided enough detail to fully resolve it.

"Instead, the Commissioner has made a broad and intrusive request for private data. We have a long history of working with the Commissioner, and we will continue to request information that will help us investigate this complaint further."

Mr Edwards says Facebook is subject to the Privacy Act 1993 because it operates in New Zealand and provides services to New Zealanders, even if its data processing takes place overseas.

Under the Privacy Act, every New Zealander has the right to request what information is held about them by an agency.

The complainant, who has not been named, was not a Facebook user.

The Commissioner said he has done as much as he can in regards to the complaint, and if the complainant wants to take the matter further they can go to the Human Rights Commission.

Mr Edwards said he has deleted his Facebook page after a decade of use, for now, due to his privacy concerns and the "troubling things" that are currently happening overseas.