Taxi chats could be dangerous

After a long week in Parliament I often have a pleasant chat with the taxi driver taking me to the airport. So I was disturbed to find out that the Wellington Combined cabs would be installing video cameras that also have voice-recording capability. Who knows where my private chats might end up, I thought.

Thankfully, the taxi company has now announced they won’t be activating the voice recording capability.  But it does show how we must always be on guard against new technology intruding on our privacy.

One would expect an SOE like NZ Post to be more attuned to privacy issues. Yet, desperate to make a few extra dollars, it sent out a questionnaire to 800,000 customers asking about personal matters, like their favourite magazine, credit card limit and partner’s income. This information was then on-sold to marketers.  The bait to customers was to go into a draw for a big prize.

Thankfully, Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff gave NZ Post a big serve, accusing it of a “systematic, large-scale breach” of privacy principles.

The SOE was far from contrite, justifying its money-grubbing intrusion into our private lives, and only saying that it put its explanation that the survey was “voluntary” in bigger type.

We deserve better.

11 Comments Posted

  1. Fair enough – though I find the underlying themes in his work, more to the point, and all too familiar – the salad dressing; take your pick – no argument here.

    With my current obsolete software – I could bleed a feed from any given Taxi – bit of cut and paste work…..especially when dealing with a Public Figure – fit ’em up for Whatever….it’s not the Use of Power that has my ears twitching – it’s what one Can Do with said power given the willingness for Abuse – something that is in evidence aplenty in NZ.

  2. In London black cabs, they have had for many years and intercom between the passenger compatment and the driver, and there is a red light with a sign next to it saying your driver can hear everything you say when light is illuminated.

    There is also an on-off switch in the passenger compartment 🙂

  3. @Mark

    Not really. Cabbies & servants have always been a favourite target of secret police forces and those seeking people seeking information about others.

    All Orwell did was extend it to the relatively new recording media.

  4. I’m not sure why you’d have an expectation of privacy in a taxi in the first place.

    A private vehicle, sure, ditto for a parliamentary limo. In public transport? Not so much.

  5. katie – Telecom is a private company and can do what they want.

    But the survey was put out by NZ Post, which is where you need to direct your complaints.

  6. “After a long week in Parliament I often have a pleasant chat with the taxi driver taking me to the airport. So I was disturbed to find out…”

    You don’t cycle??? Shame on you…

  7. How does pandering information to marketing companies come under Telecom’s ‘core business’?

    When they haven’t even got fibre-optic cable rolled out in our major cities, how dare they spend company time and money on this sort of frivolous stunt? Can’t their marketing people work out what core business means – telephony, internet service provision, cable TV if they must – and concentrate on that?

    There are far too many marketing graduates in this country, if they’re being employed to do stupid things like that then sack a few of them & put the salary into actual telephone engineers, people who can deal to the backlog in getting phonelines hooked up for new subscribers…

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