Careless trashcan disposal of problem gambler exclusions creates a stir in New Zealand
The Australian and New Zealand gambling group Totalisator Agency Board – better known simply as TAB – is facing a growing row in New Zealand over the apparently careless discarding of a confidential company document with details of excluded problem gamblers.
The publication Stuff reports that the 33 pages of supposedly confidential information were left in a Hamilton public trashcan, where they were discovered by a curious passer-by.
The documents contain the names and photographs of problem gamblers who self-excluded through the New Zealand Racing Board between 2011 and 2014.
According to Stuff, the unintended disclosure has angered many of those listed in the secret report, which was clearly marked as "private and confidential" in large capital letters across the top. The list is also accompanied by a covering letter instructing TAB managers to destroy old lists "carefully and with customer confidentiality in mind."
"While the contents of this letter must be conveyed to staff … care must be taken to ensure that neither the letter nor gallery are shown or are visible to the public. The issue of problem gambling is sensitive and the customer's privacy must be maintained," the letter warned.
Stuff reports that the thoughtlessly discarded list originated from the TAB outlet at the Aleways Inn in Frankton, and that duty manager Wynell Harris has admitted being responsible. She was apparently cleaning out her files and simply threw the old exclusion list into the public trashcan on the footpath in front of the premises.
Harris told the publication: "I was going through the lists and because … they were out of date, I just folded them up, put them in the bin.
"The thing is, after I'd done it, the next day I thought, oh my god, I shouldn't have done that, because they are confidential. I've done wrong.
"I have broken confidentiality which I should not have and I should not have disposed of the forms in that manner and I will endeavour and promise not to do that again and file the forms in the appropriate way. I'm sorry."
The New Zealand Racing Board's chief executive, John Allen, said he is investigating the matter with a view to ensuring that it cannot happen again. He said he would also be contacting the individuals exposed through the error.
Most TAB outlets shred such documents, and the lack of similar issues in the past indicated most TABs dispose of the lists correctly, he claimed.
There are 640 TAB outlets with an estimated 250,000 customers. Of those, 505 are currently excluded, Allen revealed.
Approached for comment, Auckland University Associate Professor in commercial law Gehan Gunasekara said the incident was an obvious breach of privacy.
"It's a serious breach of confidence for people to discard information like that. And it's clearly a breach of the Privacy Act, there's no doubt about that. Information must be kept securely, stored securely and disposed of securely," he said.
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