The newly created Firearms Safety Authority has found themselves in the gun after another inadvertent leak of the details of Auckland firearms owners.
In an email sent shortly after noon on Wednesday, seen by the Herald, Auckland Central Police District firearms staff emailed more than 100 gun owners to warn them their listed firearms licence address may not be up to date.
Their email addresses, in many cases including their first and last names, were visible in the cc field, rather than hidden in the bcc section.
The visible addresses included various prominent Auckland residents, including lawyers, company directors, police officers and government officials.
The email was sent from the Auckland City Police District’s firearms email address and signed NZ police, but also carried the signature and logo of the new Firearms Safety Authority, set up to administer the newly launched gun register.
Asked whether it was police or the Firearms Safety Authority who sent the email, a police spokeswoman said it was the authority.
The sender attempted to recall the email shortly after it was sent, and also sent a second email asking recipients to delete the message due to an “error in sending”.
In a statement, Superintendent Richard Wilson, Te Tari Pūreke Firearms Safety Authority director of operations, confirmed it had sent the email to 147 recipients revealing the email address of the recipients to fellow licence holders.
“This incident is being treated seriously by Te Tari Pūreke, who have lodged this as a privacy breach and will be notifying the Office of the Privacy Commissioner,” Wilson said.
Wilson said it was not sent to any members of the wider public.
“A rapid review has determined that the privacy breach came about from human error when the email addresses were incorrectly pasted into the ‘cc’ (carbon copy) address field, rather than the ‘bcc’ (blind carbon copy) address field.”
The bungle is badly timed.
Last month, the firearms registry went live amid concerns from gun owners about whether their details would be safe and secure.
Those concerns came to the fore last year with the theft of old firearms files containing the names and address of thousands of gun owners from the old, disused Auckland central police station in Vincent St, first revealed by the Herald.
At the time, one gun owner said he feared a knock on the door from criminals after the theft because the documents could serve as a shopping list for potential firearms burglars.
However, police said last year they had recovered and secured the documents after making an arrest in relation to theft, and had not linked any burglaries to the stolen documents.
One firearms owner caught up in Wednesday’s leak said to make matters worse, the email saying his address was incorrect was wrong.
“The firearms officer literally came to our family home as part of a recent license renewal process,” he said.
“It is keystone cop stuff which would be funny if it didn’t put my family in danger.
“Gangs and criminals would no doubt love to get a copy of this shopping list, and now my information, the fact I’m a license holder, has been sent to 100 people whom I do not know.”
He said the leak of the list of owners was exactly the reason he was worried about handing his details over to the new firearms register.
Superintendent Wilson said the authority wanted to stress the event “was not related in any way to information held securely in its systems” but rather a result of human error.
“Te Tari Pūreke will be making contact with all the affected recipients this afternoon, explaining the nature of the privacy breach, how it came about. Te Tari Pūreke sincerely apologises to all those affected by this event.”
The authority had begun a “rapid review of its processes around the sending large batches of email” and would be strengthening its processes, he said.
ACT firearms spokesperson Nicole McKee said the error “shows once again that police are incapable of keeping licenced firearms owners’ information secure”.
“Licenced firearm owners already had little confidence in police’s ability to securely maintain and administer a gun registry and this latest mistake reinforces that. If police can’t even tell the difference between CC and BCC in an email how on earth can they keep records secure?” McKee said in a statement.
“This episode demonstrates once again that the full registration of firearms is a wasteful and dangerous exercise and ACT will repeal it. It also shows that the administration of information about firearms and their licenced owners needs to be removed from New Zealand Police and placed under the care of a truly independent and trusted firearms authority, which ACT has committed to establishing.”