NZ Privacy Commissioner John Edwards has delivered Facebook another serve as his relations with the social network remain heated.

This morning, Edwards shared an email with the Herald that he sent to a number of Facebook executives on Friday.

It reads: "It would be very difficult for you and your colleagues to overestimate the growing frustration and anger here at Facebook's facilitation of and inability to mitigate the deep, deep pain and harm from the live-streamed massacre of our colleagues, family members and countrymen broadcast over your network.

"Your silence is an insult to our grief."


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On Twitter on Friday, Edwards accused Facebook of ghosting him - or ignoring all communication.

Earlier that day, the Herald posted an article noting that a New Zealand hate group remained on Facebook - complete with images too offensive to publish.

"Your silence is an insult to our grief," Privacy Commissioner John Edwards told Facebook Photo / File.

The story prompted Edwards to post a reply on Twitter: "After your piece on Facebook's 15th birthday which contained critical quotes from me, senior execs got in touch to offer regular briefings. We VC'D [videoconferenced] Singapore & Washington DC on 8 March & committed to "keep communication channels open". Contact since 15/03 .... 0."

The Privacy Commissioner had hoped for communication from Facebook after the March 15 Christchurch shootings - especially given he had publically demanded that the social network hand over account details to NZ Police of all people who had shared a copy of the gunman's video. Edwards says sharing the clip is an "egregious" violation of the victim's privacy, in violation of NZ's Privacy Act.

Sharing also contravenes our censorship laws. The gunman's video and manifesto have been rated "objectionable" by NZ's Chief Censor, meaning they are banned. Those who view or share them face a fine of up to $10,000 if they do so while ignorant of the rating, and up to $50,000 (or $100,000 for organisations) or jail of up to 14 years if they knowingly share the material. The rating and penalties apply from the moment the material was produced, not the time it was classified.

"Your silence is an insult to our grief," Privacy Commissioner John Edwards told Facebook Photo / File.

The social network did not respond to Edwards over his request to hand over names. But in an interview with the Herald, Facebook's VP for global policy Monika Bickert indicated it would not cooperate.

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Edwards says the only communication he's received from Facebook since the Christchurch mosque massacres was on March 21, when he received a rote email about a password issue. It did not mention the shootings.

No comment on hate group

Edwards is not the only one being ghosted.

Although the Herald was granted an interview with global VP Bickert, Facebook has not responded to several questions over several days about whether the social network is investigating or reviewing an NZ-based, anti-immigrant hate group that continues to operate on Facebook. [UPDATE: on Monday evening, Facebook said it would respond "shortly.'

Photos posted by the group on Facebook are too offensive to publish on the Herald's site. Reports of other NZ hate groups on the social network, and Facebook's failure to act on complaints about them, continue to come in.


In February, the Privacy Commissioner told the Herald he saw a pattern of bad behaviour and broken promises from the social network.

"We do see a pattern in the news media of Facebook's assurances of its commitment to privacy values and improving its performance in light of recent abuses and debacles," Edwards said.

"These assurances seem to be followed by revelations which indicate Facebook is doubling down on the way it uses personal information rather than improving its privacy practices."

The lack of comment from Facebook executives is frustrating the Privacy Commissioner. Photo/Getty Images.
The lack of comment from Facebook executives is frustrating the Privacy Commissioner. Photo/Getty Images.

"The pattern we have seen from Facebook both domestically and internationally highlights the need for the company to be subjected to greater regulatory oversight both in New Zealand and in other jurisdictions in which its data is housed and processed.

"Concrete regulatory measures are needed to support the resolve of the executives who provide aspirational platitudes to international regulators, which seem pitted against the accountants."

But although the watchdog has requested more teeth, our lawmakers recently knocked back his request to fine companies that breach the Privacy Act fines of up to $1 million.

In Australia, things have moved in the opposite number Facebook and other companies now facing a fine equivalent to 10 per cent of their total turnover for misusing data.