Complaint & Enquiry Cases
Notes on Complaint & Enquiry Cases related
to Personal Information Collection Statement (PICS)
Where the true nature of a document submitted to court amounts to a judicial application, the serving of it by clerk of the court to the other party to the proceedings for the purpose of hearing is for a directly related purpose and hence no breach of DPP3.
Complainant in a letter applied for the Master of High Court to discharge himself from hearing the complainant's case on ground of alleged conflict of interest - The clerk served copy of the letter to the other party of the proceedings - Complainant alleged breach of DPP3 - what was contained in the letter amounted to a judicial application - no change of use in serving it upon the other party to the proceedings - DPP3.
The complainant was a party to a court case. He wrote a letter to a Master of the High Court who handled the taxation hearing of his case. In the letter, he requested the Master to discharge from further handling his case. The complainant later discovered that the clerk of the Master had attached a copy of the letter to a Notice of Hearing served on the legal representative of the other party to the case. The Notice of Hearing notified all parties to the court case of the date and time of hearing the complainant's application made by the letter. The complainant lodged a complaint with the PCPD alleging that the clerk had disclosed the letter without his consent.
The complainant held the view that the letter was a complaint letter issued to the Master for him to decide on his own whether to discharge from further handling the case. This should have been treated in confidence. The court, however, explained that the nature of the letter was a judicial application. As there was more than one party to the proceedings concerned, the application should therefore be made in an inter-parte hearing in the court. The other party of the case should be notified of such application and the date of the inter-parte hearing. As such, a Notice of Hearing attaching a copy of the letter was sent to the solicitors representing the other party.
Findings by Privacy Commissioner
The Privacy Commissioner accepted the explanation given by the court and formed the view that there was no breach of DPP3 by the clerk. Accordingly, the complainant was notified under section 39(2)(d) of the PD(P)O that there was to be no further investigation of the complaint.
Dissatisfied with the decision of the Privacy Commissioner, the complainant appealed to the AAB and further alleged that the court had acted contrary to DPP1(3) of the PD(P)O by failing to notify him of the purposes of use of the letter.
After hearing the appeal, the AAB upheld the decision of the Privacy Commissioner. The AAB decided that the letter was a judicial application. Hence, it was an appropriate judicial act by the court to serve a copy of the letter together with the Notice of Hearing on the other party to the court case. This was to ensure a fair hearing procedure to all parties concerned. In this regard, the use of the complainant's personal data was for a purpose directly related to the purpose of handling the complainant's request. Furthermore, there was no issue of DPP1(3) as the letter was issued at the complainant's own initiative.
The appeal was dismissed.
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