Auckland Transport has called in lawyers to review its privacy policy after a technology company used email addresses of more than 50,000 bus passengers to send them marketing offers.

Chief executive David Warburton told his board yesterday the policy had been put under an independent legal microscope as part of an investigation into the use of information obtained from Auckland Transport by electronic card provider Snapper Services.

Snapper, as supplier of the first version of the regional public transport Hop card to passengers of fellow Infratil subsidiary NZ Bus, is understood to be claiming a right to use email addresses obtained from registered card holders.

That view is contested by Auckland Transport, which is seeking clarification of the issue as part of the legal review.


Of 108,000 users of Hop cards, 52,258 have registered themselves to be able to claim refunds if these are lost or stolen.

Although only names and email addresses are required for registration, users are invited to provide other details such as phone numbers.

The privacy policy says the council organisation may see fit to disclose personal information to Hop partners such as Snapper and NZ Bus.

Auckland Transport spokeswoman Sharon Hunter said on Monday that the mass email was "a mistake on the part of Snapper" and not an appropriate use of information gathered.

But the manager of the organisation's key relationships unit, Stephen Rainbow, indicated to the board there was disagreement among the partners about intellectual property ownership.

Dr Warburton has meanwhile written to Devonport-Takapuna Local Board member Joseph Bergin, a law student concerned about Snapper's use of his email address and those of fellow bus passengers, saying Auckland transport was taking the incident "very seriously".

Snapper is not returning the Herald's calls.