Facebook has breached New Zealand Privacy Act - commissioner

Facebook has breached the Privacy Act, the New Zealand Privacy Commissioner says.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards' finding comes after Facebook refused to allow a New Zealand user to access their personal information held on several other users' accounts.

It said it was not subject to the New Zealand Privacy Act and refused to cooperate with the Commissioner's investigation and demands in regard to the user's complaint.

"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.

"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".

As the Commissioner was unable to access the material requested by the complainant, who has not been named, he could not investigate the complaint.

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

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.

Recent reports have alleged that political analysis company Cambridge Analytica improperly used data from more than 50 million Facebook users.

It's alleged the firm used the data to help President Donald Trump win the 2016 election.

Cambridge Analytica has been suspended by Facebook, but it has so far denied any allegations of wrongdoing.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is facing mounting pressure to front up on the issue to politicians, with the United Kingdom's Information Commissioner and the US Federal Trade Commissioner investigating the allegations.

Facebook has been contacted for comment.