Sensible Sentencing Trust wrongly labels man as paedophile

The Sensible Sentencing Trust website. Photo: RNZ
The Sensible Sentencing Trust website. Photo: RNZ
The Sensible Sentencing Trust has been censured by the Privacy Commissioner after wrongly labelling a man as a convicted paedophile on its website.

In a release, the Privacy Commissioner said the Sensible Sentencing Trust (SST) had interfered with the man's privacy and caused him harm. The Privacy Commissioner said he was abused on social media and feared his tarnished reputation would damage his business.

The SST had uploaded the man's picture with a description of a convicted paedophile with a similar name on its 'Offender Database'. The picture was up for almost two years before the man found out and complained to the office of the Privacy Commissioner.

The picture had been provided to the SST by a member of the public and was uploaded by a volunteer without any steps to verify its accuracy, the Privacy Commissioner said.

The SST said they did not know who provided the photo or who uploaded it.

"Agencies must take reasonable steps to check that personal information is accurate before they use it," Privacy Commissioner John Edwards said.

"Relying on the assistance of unpaid volunteers does not excuse the SST of its legal obligations."

"The SST claims that the purpose of its 'Offender Database' is to protect the public from harm and help keep offenders accountable. In this case it has done the exact opposite.

"The magnitude of this error calls the SST's capabilities into question and raises concerns that the database may have contained other significant errors," Mr Edwards said.

The SST has since acknowledged the mistake and removed its database.

Mr Edwards said he decided to publicly name the SST to warn the New Zealand public of its "continuously negligent, cavalier, and dangerous approach to privacy".

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