Tauranga businesses are reporting high compliance with the Covid-19 contact tracing regime.
On September 1, the Government introduced mandatory record-keeping for businesses to display a QR Code and have an alternative record-keeping system, enabling them to collect contact tracing records "in a privacy-protective way".
Privacy Commissioner John Edwards said although most organisations and businesses knew the need to provide a secure manual alternative to the QR code, many were using paper registers that left people's contact details visible to other members of the public.
"Using an open sheet or register left in a public-facing position where personal information is visible to others is a leading cause of Covid-19-related privacy breaches."
On December 1 last year, the Privacy Commissioner was given new powers to issue compliance notices to businesses or organisations which breach the Privacy Act 2020.
A compliance notice will require the organisation or business to do something, or to stop doing something, in order to comply with the Privacy Act.
Refusing to comply with a compliance notice is an offence under the Privacy Act and could attract a fine of up to $10,000.
Edwards said if anything bad happened as a result of a privacy breach, business owners and organisations could see themselves having to pay significant damages to the complainant.
The potential risks from a privacy breach included stalking, harassment or unwanted attention which makes people quite uncomfortable, or theft, he said.
Edwards suggested several other ways to reduce the risk of privacy breaches.
This included businesses setting up a ballot box with individual paper slips or cards for people to fill in their details or a staff member manually recording visitors' details.
The Bay of Plenty Times recently undertook a mini-survey on contact tracing compliance at businesses across Tauranga city.
Fancy That owner Bill Campbell said he accepted the paper-based system was open to abuse but "unlikely" in his store, given how close the counter was to the sign-in area.
"If anyone did try to write down someone else's personal particulars I'd be right there like a rocket to confront them to protect my customers' rights to privacy."
"Yes, we could have a sign-in box. But as a business, which has just been through another lockdown, we are struggling to make a living as well as doing all we can to ensure the safety of our customers is not put at risk.".
Campbell said he and his wife actively promoted the contact tracing system and mask-wearing with a high level of compliance from the large majority of their customers.
"Everyone knows what is expected and there has to be some personal responsibility here as well. Most people do seem to be doing the right things in the city centre.
"We all need to keep it up so we can get out of alert 2 as quickly as possible."
Greerton resident and Fancy That shopper Brian Eley, 84, said he preferred to use the QR codes because it was faster.
"But I don't have a problem with using the paper-based open register if I needed to as I have absolutely nothing to hide.
"In my experience, apart from the odd person at the supermarket, most people are complying with the Covid-19 rules, including wearing masks, which is great to see.
"We need everyone to do the right thing, and that includes getting vaccinated."
Shampoo Plus store in Devonport Rd operates the Covid-19 tracer app and a paper-based ballot box sign-in system.
The store manager, who asked not to be named, said it was "not hard" to comply with using either system but the ballot box "took a bit of the pressure off those who were not quite up with the tracer app technology.
"Most people are pretty onto it now in terms of compliance and use the app. If the odd person comes into the store not wearing a face mask we have masks available for them.
"It's very important that everything does the right thing as we certainly don't want to end up like Melbourne," she said.
Tank store manager Richa Rani said most people were using the contact tracing app and the paper-based system was being used as a back-up for those unable to do so.
Rani said she had not come across anyone who refused to use the contact tracing system.
"When anyone does forget to sign in or use the app, I politely remind them that contact tracing is mandatory for businesses and they are very happy to do so. "
Tauranga shopper Bridie Waterreus, 21, from Tauriko, said she accepted the paper-based sign-in system could be open to a privacy breach.
"However, I think we need to weigh the likely risk against the fact that the majority of people in my experience are contact tracing, which is really important ."
AJ's Lotto owner Linda Zeng said they did not use a paper-based contact tracing system because the Covid-19 scanning app system was "much safer, easier and more secure."
She said she was "very happy" with her customers' contact tracing compliance and had no complaints or issues arising from not having a paper-based sign-in system.
Greerton's Le Chat Noir cafe owner Summer Aru said she operated both contact tracer systems and customers were quite happy to use either.
"I think our customers are doing a really great job in complying with the contact tracing requirements."
Manpreet Kaur from Chadwick Bakery & Cafe in Greerton said some older customers used the store's sign-in sheets at the counter, but the majority of customers used the QR code.
"People are also social distancing and using hand sanitiser, which is excellent and exactly what we want to see."
A staff member at Paper Plane in Maunganui Rd said the store had a sign-in sheet on a clipboard at the front door and also one at the front counter for customers if needed.
"Most people scan the QR code system. I think everybody just knows the drill by now and if they do have to sign in I don't think privacy is the first thing that comes to mind.
"I think we have to accept that contact tracing is just part of our world now and get on with it as it's a vital tool should we ever have a community outbreak in this area."