The Privacy Commissioner has found Facebook in breach of the New Zealand Privacy Act.

The finding comes after Facebook refused a complainant access to personal information held on the accounts of several other Facebook users.

Such investigations are almost always confidential, but the Privacy Commissioner identified Facebook to reveal the "demonstrated unwillingness" of the social media company to comply with the law.

The Privacy Commission has limited enforcement powers and would usually only reveal the names of the parties involved as a last resort, in a bid to warn the public an organisation is in breach of the legislation.


Facebook argued that Privacy Act did not apply to it and it did not have to
comply with the Commissioner's request to review the information the
complainant asked for.

But the commissioner found Facebook was subject to the Privacy Act. "because it operates in New Zealand and provides services to New Zealanders".

Facebook had failed to properly respond to the complainant's request for information, failed to acknowledge it was subject to the Privacy Act, and did not cooperate with the Commissioner's investigation and statutory demand for information.

And because of Facebook's refusal to cooperate, the commissioner was unable to review the material requested by the complainant and could not agree if Facebook was justified in properly withholding information from the complainant, preventing the Commissioner from being able to address the complaint under the statutory process.

The commission's announcement follows an international scandal involving data firm Cambridge Analytica's misuse of customer data.

An estimated US$73 billion ($100b) has been wiped off Facebook's stock value since the start of the scandal.

Yesterday, it was also reported that Facebook stock has become so toxic that some investment funds now are lumping the social network in with big polluters and other corporations they consider ethically challenged.

Facebook is yet to respond to a request for comment in regard to the local breach.