Comment by Sandeep Singh
It is time for Kiwis to think about how sensitive we are about privacy settings in this country, as the political turmoil around National MPs' privacy breach continues.
In the latest developments, we were told Hamish Walker was not the only MP to be sent highly confidential personal details of Kiwis – so too did Michael Woodhouse.
While the authorities dig out more to find out how far and wide have those private details of unsuspecting Kiwis have travelled, it is pertinent to look how deep is the rut, in our collective ability to keep the information of others, private and secure.
To be fair, Kiwis have undoubtedly raised concerns on privacy issues repeatedly in the recent past, especially around how global technology giants like Facebook and Google are encroaching on our private information on the pretext of collecting data for business purposes. That remains a work in progress.
However, my concern is that we might be dropping the ball in handling the private information of others in our day to day work and social settings that may gradually erode our collective sensitivity towards the broader privacy concerns.
We might be lowering our guards on how we handle the private information of others, treating it a bit casually, probably in our quintessential relaxed Kiwi style.
I say this from my experience of being a relatively recent migrant who has only put down his roots in this country for nearly a decade, after having spent another half a decade in our Trans-Tasman neighbour across the ditch.
My partner and I had several anecdotal experiences very early in the Kiwi work environment that led us to believe that here in New Zealand "everyone knows everything about you".
Once, winters ago when I was busy in writing my dissertation for a university degree and my partner was the only one bringing food on the table by temping at a reasonably midsize telecom-related business, we had our first tryst with supposedly lax privacy environment.
She was fired from the job because her prospective new employer, where she was exploring better opportunities, had chosen to call her current employer's office without keeping her informed. Her then-current employer treated this nothing less than an act of "treason".
In one of her next jobs, her moment of discomfort came when her manager released their entire team's monthly sales commission earnings to everyone in the team on email - probably driven by the zeal of fairness - but not without transgressing what one would expect about privacy settings in a modern work environment.
Since we were directly coming from Australia, where both of us had experienced a rigorous, thorough sensitisation on how to keep information private - especially in business operations that deal with sensitive information of customers such as contact centres - we had our moments of discomfort.
And there were many such moments before we successfully replaced that initial discomfort with a reassurance that we are blessed to be living in a country that is gifted with an incredible level of social cohesiveness.
Probably, that explains our casual approach in sharing information with others and hoping to count on their diligence, in handling that information sensitively without further breaching privacy.
Otherwise, what explains former National Party President Michelle Bloag passing on incredibly private pieces of information to Walker and Woodhouse - and hoping that they could use the information to design a "political hit" on the government, but stopping short of releasing that information in public.
As it turned out, she was herself bewildered when she learnt Walker released the sensitive information to the media.
While all concerned deal with the privacy breach and voters make up their minds on how to deal with it in the impending elections, it might also be helpful, if we collectively as a society, mull upon how causal we have become in dealing with the private information of others.
In my experience, there is a stark lack of sensitisation of the workforce in this country on how to handle the private information of others that needs to be shaken-up.
Some may disagree and discard the argument as baseless - based on mere individual anecdotal experience of a few - and hence dispel the need for any corrective actions.
However, as far as I am concerned, New Zealand has an overly relaxed attitude towards handling the private information of others in our work and social settings.
All is well with the relaxed Kiwi-attitude. Let's keep that charm intact. But there is a need to up the ante on how we deal with the private information of others in this country, and more so we have seen a dramatic increase in the size of the population in the last few years, bringing in people from all over the world to live in this beautiful country.
We can do better in educating everyone and regulating our privacy settings.
* Sandeep Singh is the editor of Auckland based Indian-community newspaper The Indian Weekender.