Does NZ Post collect metadata from physical mail?

Alex Harris made this Official Information request to New Zealand Post Limited

The request was successful.

From: Alex Harris

Dear New Zealand Post Limited,

According to Wikipedia, the US Postal Services collects metadata from all mail sent or received within the United States under a program called "Mail Isolation Control and Tracking". I would like to request the following information under the OIA:

* Does NZ Post collect metadata from mail sent or received within New Zealand? For example, do automated sorting machines photograph or log mail during processing? If so, I would like to know what information is collected, how long it is stored for, and who it is provided to.

Its fine if you refuse this request under s18(e) as the information is not held. In fact, that's the answer I'm hoping for.

I would prefer to receive an electronic response. Queries about this request will be automatically forwarded to me by the fyi.org.nz website.

With regards to s12 of the OIA, I am an NZ citizen and in NZ

Yours faithfully,

Alex Harris

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From: OiaOfficer
New Zealand Post Limited

Dear Alex
I refer to your email of 24 September.
We are looking into your request, and will be in touch soon.
Yours sincerely

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From: OiaOfficer
New Zealand Post Limited

Dear Alex
Please can you advise whether your request relates to letter mail (e.g.
when processed through automatic sorting machines), or parcels as well.
Yours sincerely
On 1 October 2014 09:23, OiaOfficer <[1][email address]> wrote:

Dear Alex
I refer to your email of 24 September.
We are looking into your request, and will be in touch soon.
Yours sincerely

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From: Alex Harris

Dear OiaOfficer,

My request relates to both letter mail and parcels handled by NZPost.

Yours sincerely,

Alex Harris

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Luke left an annotation ()

I think you should err on the side of not proposing an answer or outcome such as "Its fine if you refuse this request under s18(e) as the information is not held. In fact, that's the answer I'm hoping for".
I found this leading. Perhaps there was a reason why you choose to offer that action that belies me.

However I do think it's sensible to offer alternative actions that pre-emptively counteract a decision to likely withold information. For example, only redact the prejudicial information and not whole documents (which they should do anyway but may not depending on their level of proficiency with the Act); consult the requester to negotiate the parameters or re-scope the request if it is unclear or seemingly large (s18B); providing public interest considerations which would outweigh the withholding, and so on. I think you may have done some of these with past requests.

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From: OiaOfficer
New Zealand Post Limited

Dear Alex
Thank you for your email.  We are looking into your request.  Please note
that as the request has a wide scope (including parcel services as well as
letter mail), it will take some time to collate the information from
various parts of our business.
Not withstanding, we will endeavour to respond as soon as possible, and if
possible within 20 working days of your initial request.
Yours sincerely

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From: OiaOfficer
New Zealand Post Limited

Dear Mr Harris

 

We refer to your request of 24 September, and subsequent request
clarification of 2 October 2015.

 

As you will be aware, New Zealand Post Limited (‘NZ Post’) handles both
letter and parcel mail.  Different processes apply to these different
services.  Please see our responses set out below.

 

Letter mail

 

Images of letters are captured when the mail is processed through our
automated sorting machines.  This is done so that the address on the mail
item can be interpreted by bar code, and the mail item sorted. 

 

The bar codes only contain machine data and a sort code relative to the
postie round the letter will be delivered to.  There is nothing in the bar
code that refers to a specific address. 

 

The images are only kept for the time needed to process the address for
sorting on the machine, which is fractions of a second.  The only time we
keep images for longer is when we are identifying a sorting fault, in
which case the images are held for 3 days. 

 

No names or addresses are recorded or used from the mail item. 

 

There are no images captured of mail that is sorted manually.

 

Parcel mail

Images of parcels are captured through various processing systems for
operational purposes. 

 

Tracked parcels are sorted by the Auckland Operations Centre (AOC).  If
these items are ex-Auckland PostShops heading out of Auckland, and on a
PostLink PAT label, the barcode and destination town information is sent
to the sorter.  The sorter does not ‘read’ the recipient’s name or street
address.  However, a photo is taken and kept.  If the item is not on a
PostLink PAT label, we have to ‘read’ the whole address to sort it.  A
photo is taken and kept.  These photos are held for 6 months, for internal
investigation purposes (e.g. a complaint, or claim for loss or damage).

 

Parcels that are not tracked do not enter the AOC, but may do if they are
mis-streamed by the originating PostShop.  These items are then rejected
by the sorter and sent to a Mail Centre for manual processing.  These
items are photographed, but the address is not stored or held.

 

Items that haven’t come from an electronically generated source and end up
on the conveyor belts at the AOC (e.g. with handwritten addresses), are
photographed and do a lap of the belt.  In the time it takes to complete
the lap, the photo is viewed and the parcel’s destination is entered, so
that the parcel can be automatically sorted.

 

Operational destination data and bar codes are kept for longer periods. 
This information is not published or shared with third parties, and does
not contain name or address information.

 

PostLink and Postal Kiosk do not collect any customer metadata.  It is
purely metadata about the parcel itself  - i.e. destination, primary
service, weight, size, thickness, tracking number, insurance/value add (if
applicable) and price paid.

 

Universal Postal Union requirements

 

Additional requirements apply to international parcels.  NZ Post, as a
postal operator, is a member of the Universal Postal Union (‘UPU’) and
subject to UPU requirements. 

 

Article RC 219 (Period of retention of documents) of the UPU Parcel Post
Manual requires that documents of the international service be kept for a
minimum period of 18 months from the day following the date to which they
refer.  However, if the documents are reproduced on microfilm, microfiche
or similar medium, they may be destroyed as soon as it is established that
the reproduction is satisfactory. 

 

Documents concerning a dispute or inquiry must be kept until the matter
has been settled.  If the initiating designated operator, being duly
informed of the result of the inquiry, allows six months to pass from the
date of the communication without raising any objections, the matter is
regarded as closed.

Yours sincerely

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Things to do with this request

Anyone:
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