By Adam Shelton

Horowhenua District Council chief executive David Clapperton's view, as reported this week, on email privacy and ownership is misconceived, says the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

Mr Clapperton, commenting earlier this week on the controversy surrounding his interception of other people's emails, said he had not breached privacy in any way in his communications practices.

"Emails addressed to an email address are the property of the Horowhenua District Council as is outlined in the electronic communication policy," he said.


The Office of the Privacy Commissioner said Mr Clapperton's statement was a common misconception.

Rights and obligations under the Privacy Act are not connected to ownership of the information or the equipment, it said.

HDC has an internal electronic communication policy for its employees to understand their responsibilities when using the Internet, email and other electronic communication tools.

It does not have an external policy applying to the public.

Members of the public, whose emails were caught up in the controversy, were reportedly unaware of being involved until the issue became public this week.

HDC this week apologised for incorrectly stating everyone was made aware their emails were being redirected to Mr Clapperton.

HDC's internal electronic communication policy says emails, including personal emails, are monitored and can be inspected at random without notification.

It says all transactions that occur using the council's systems and resources including Internet usage, emails received and sent, phone records, etc, remain the property of the council.

The policy contains no reference to the email black list interception programme run by the council over the past several years.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner said while it had views in general on the need for employers to have transparent email policies for employees, it did not have enough facts to comment on the specific issue at HDC.