Use of Cookies and Tracking

Karen Anderson made this Official Information request to Dunedin City Council

Response to this request is long overdue. By law Dunedin City Council should have responded by now (details and exceptions). The requester can complain to the Ombudsman.

From: Karen Anderson

Dear Dunedin City Council,

My preference is to receive the requested information by email.

The “Privacy Policy” page on the DCC website includes multiple statements intended to convey, impliedly or explicitly, that privacy is protected, the DCC does not use cookies, will only collect information that is volunteered, will only use it for the purpose provided, and will not release it to any third party.

Analysis of computer records proves several cookies are stored on the device used to browse the Dog Control Bylaw maps. More detailed analysis confirms the maps also contain trackers, possibly via the use of background loading of files including a transparent image that would not raise any suspicions and can only be discovered by users inspecting the hypertext markup.

Testing also confirms the Dog Control Bylaw map does not load and therefore cannot be used to “read” the Bylaw unless the user sets their device and software settings to permit cookies and tracking. This means access to the Bylaw is conditional on being able to track and collect information about the user.

This is of critical concern because the only source of information about the Bylaw provisions concerning dog access is via the maps. That means the only way they dog owners are able to obtain the information they are legally entitled to access, and are legally obliged to know and therefore must access, is if their movements can be tracked.

Like all free democracies New Zealand legislation confirms and protects the right of law-abiding citizens to conduct their activities free from monitoring by the organs of state. New Zealand is signatory and has ratified various international conventions binding itself not to infringe this fundamental civil and political right. Domestic legislation explicitly prohibits organs of the state monitoring the activities of law-abiding citizens. The very few and very specific exceptions are explicitly identified and the legislation includes the rigorous process that must be followed to obtain permission to conduct surveillance which is granted for named and identifiable individuals only.

We have been unable to identify any exception for ordinary law-abiding citizens who happen to belong to a general class of citizenry the DCC has labelled “dog owner”.

We also note that during the meeting of the Dog Control Bylaw Working Group held on 9 October 2017 the Manager Compliance Solutions unveiled changes to the Dog Control bylaw maps that included a “user feature” that allowed the location of the device used to access maps to be traced at all times. The assumption was that dog owners access the maps using a cell phone and carry the cell phone almost continuously, so tracking the location of the device would have the result of tracking the movements of the dog owner.

The issue of DCC employees acting in this manner was raised with the Chief Executive as the legal employer. The matter was passed to the in-house legal Counsel. It was reasonably expected subordinate staff would be kept in check, but it is now clear that did not occur.

Accordingly, I have been requested by members of the Dunedin Dog Bylaw Group to ask for:
(a) The legislative provisions or case law that authorise making statements concerning privacy, cookies and tracking, and then act in the opposite manner.
(b) The legislative provisions or case law that empower a local authority to track dog owners

Yours faithfully,
Karen Anderson

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