It's the perfect told-you-so.

If anyone wanted an illustration of how we are losing fundamental rights, then Westpac's handing over of Nicky Hager's banking records to the police without a warrant is textbook.

Police wanted the information to try and find computer hacker Rawshark, who stole emails to the WhaleOil blog site. Westpac obliged but happily, Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Spark, TradeMe and Vodafone declined.

Legally there does seem to be some room for Westpac to hand over the information without a court sanction. The grounds in the Privacy Act cite reasonable grounds for releasing personal inform if it would help "maintenance of the law."


However because it's not clear, erring on the side of caution and not giving up a customer's private data would have been a better stance for the bank to take. Mr Hager has so far just used the material from the stolen emails and has not yet been charged with any crime.

But it is now up to the Privacy Commissioner to explain how this happened and if the handing over of the data was within the bounds of the rules.

Ironically, or perhaps not surprisingly, Mr Hager's attempts to obtain his police files under the Official Information and Privacy Acts have so far failed, it's been reported. The author of Dirty Politics has long argued we need to be vigilant to stop creeping loss of rights in New Zealand. While Westpac has taken a very pro-active stance on divulging the personal information of a customer, in the end it will be the apathy of New Zealanders that allows the courts to be sidelined. It's essential that legislation around privacy is clear and that we continue to stand up for courts being the gatekeeper to New Zealanders private information.