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Clients step up pressure on ACC after latest privacy breach

Published: 5:49AM Thursday May 17, 2012 Source: ONE News

More pressure is going on the Accident Compensation Corporation after ONE News revelations of the latest privacy breach.

An employee emailed 118 clients' confidential accounts for overdue levies to other clients by mistake last Friday.

ACC clients took to website forums to vent their anger after ONE News broke the news yesterday.

The corporation's chief executive Ralph Stewart is the prime target because of how he reacted when confronted on the blunder.

In particular, it is his admission that he would not have gone public and acknowledged the error if ONE News had not asked the question, that has hit a raw nerve.

ACC was in the process of contacting clients directly affected by the breach, but it had no plans to publicly acknowledge the error.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says that shows a problem with the culture at ACC.

"They have something of a sick culture in that he was prepared to admit that he wouldn't have gone public and told the country that they'd made another mistake if the media hadn't exposed it," Turei  told TV ONE's Breakfast.

The incident was exposed by ONE News after it obtained an email Stewart sent to staff blaming human error for the blunder.

"I don't blame New Zealanders for being very concerned that this agency is failing them. They need to hold both the chair and the minister responsible for this," Turei said.

The latest incident comes after another major privacy breach in March when an ACC employee sent confidential details about 6,000 clients to claimant Bronwyn Pullar.

Turei said ACC is a repeat offender when it comes to breaching privacy.

"Part of the problem is ACC is very focussed on cutting costs, getting people off ACC and reducing compensation to clients and not on providing a quality service to injured New Zealanders," she said.

ACC says it processed 130,000 claims in April alone and it is that sheer volume of correspondence which is affecting their target of total privacy security.

"We are working actively towards it, very actively in fact. And I believe we are going to get there. Sadly this is a bump in the road," Stewart told ONE News yesterday.

The Privacy Commissioner says ACC bosses informed her of the latest breach soon after it was discovered and she believes action is being taken to fix the problem.

ACC Minister Judith Collins is not commenting on the breach, saying ACC's privacy processes are already under investigation by the Privacy Commissioner.

In two weeks ACC is meeting with major stakeholders and independent auditors KPMG to address its problem with privacy.


Meanwhile a lawyer says ACC could face legal action over its latest breach of clients' privacy.

John Miller said this sort of situation seems to be becoming too frequent with ACC.

"This is not only a privacy breach, but this is, I think, defamatory material that's gone out that could affect people's credit," he said.

"ACC could defend a defamation suit by saying 'well, it's true.' But it may not be true, they may have got it wrong."

Each of the accounts mistakenly emailed contained the client's name, ACC number and how much they owe the corporation.