AW v Statutory Authority [2012] VPrivCmr 1: IPP 8, anonymity

June 6, 2012 |

In AW v Statutory Authority [2012] VPrivCmr 1 the Privacy Commissioner considered a complaint about anonymity.


The Complainant had a problem with alleged delays and long waiting times at a particular service provider. He complained to the Statutory Authority who regulated the service provider. The Statutory Authority requested the Complainant fill out a complaint form which requested his personal details.  He told  the Statutory Authority that he wanted to remain anonymous in making his complaint. The Statutory Authority responded that it  could not accept anonymous complaints as it needed to know his details so his matter could be raised with the service provider in order to investigate the circumstances of what had allegedly occurred.


The Commissioner referred to IPP 8 which requires that wherever it is lawful and practicable individuals must have the option of not identifying themselves when entering into a transaction with an organisation. Organisations should endeavour, where possible, to permit individuals to remain anonymous where it is lawful and practicable. The example given was “..where a person reports a public facility in need of repair”.

However in the circumstances it was not practicable for the Statutory Authority to provide the Complainant with the option of remaining anonymous for the purpose of its complaints process. This is because the complaint (to the Statutory Authority) specifically concerned how the Complainant had been treated by the service provider.  The Statutory Authority needed to provide the Complainant’s name and allegations to the service provider so that the service provider could provide a proper response to the allegations the Complainant had made.

The Privacy Commissioner stated:

‘Unless the [service provider] knew you were the Complainant, it could not be expected to provide an informed and accurate response as to why there were delays in relation to [the Complainant’s individual case].”

As a consequence the Privacy Commissioner declined the complaint under section 29(1)(a) of the Act, that the act or practice was not an interference with the privacy of the Complainant.


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