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Tinder, public shame and private affairs Sam Grover
28 January 2016

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Usually, peoples’ personal relationships aren’t our concern, but a story that ran yesterday caught our attention.

The story reported that a man and woman briefly dated, and then broke up. Dissatisfied with the breakup, the woman reportedly posted signs all over a central Auckland suburb with his picture, name, employer, job title and work address. She also posted a transcript of what was presumably their last text message exchange, where she lambasted him for his behaviour during the relationship.

While we don’t know the details of exactly what happened here, posting an ex-partner’s personal information all over town could put someone on the wrong side of the Privacy Act.

This is a relatively new development. Last July, Parliament amended the Privacy Act. We can now investigate complaints about domestic affairs in circumstances where the information involved is “highly offensive to an ordinary reasonable person.”

The poster in the story might meet that threshold. People in relationships do not generally give their permission to have their names, job titles, place of work and personal text messages publicly shared if the relationship doesn’t end in a satisfactory way.  

The posters were physical, so posting them around town would likely not be a breach of the Harmful Digital Communications Act (HDCA), which covers digital material. But were someone to post the same information online, they would likely be breaching the HDCA as well. This is an interesting exemplar of the fact that online communications are now more heavily regulated than offline communications.  

It’s not our place to preach on the morality of posting this kind of information, and we don’t have enough facts to comment on this specific case. But the legal structures currently in place send a clear message: the practice of shaming someone by posting their personal information is a practice that is generally best avoided.    

Image credit: Nicholas Raymond via Flickr

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  • Anyone who photographs the poster and shares that picture on Facebook would be theoretically breaching the Act.

    Posted by Donald T, 02/02/2016 8:58am (23 months ago)

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The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

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