Trade Me transparency report: July 2013
Like many NZ based companies, we receive requests for information from NZ Government agencies to assist them with their responsibilities to maintain the law.
We’re providing this transparency report to give insight into how we work with agencies to comply with the law and keep our website trusted and safe.
This inaugural transparency report details the number of requests from government agencies for information or listing removals from us in the year from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013.
Trade Me is a popular NZ website with three million members and two million live listings (see a bunch of site stats here).
As a safe and trusted part of the NZ ecommerce ecosystem, we are strongly motivated by a desire to protect members' privacy.
We do not sell private personal information and we take great care to protect members' private personal information.
As we state in our terms and conditions:
We release account and other personal information only when we believe release is appropriate to comply with law; facilitate court proceedings; enforce or apply our terms and conditions; or protect the rights, property, or safety of Trade Me Limited, our users, or others. Government agencies with statutory roles enabling them to request information from us include but are not restricted to the Police, Inland Revenue Department and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
When government agencies contact us with a request, we first question whether the information is required for this purpose. We also work with larger agencies such as Inland Revenue, and where appropriate push back strongly, to ensure that information releases are tightly focussed and as proportionate as possible.
Summary of requests:
New Zealand Police
We have a good working relationship with the NZ Police. This allows us to maintain the integrity of our site and help them to keep the community safe.
The majority of Police requests relate to suspected stolen goods.
We are keen to ensure our site is not used to dispose of stolen items and it is reassuring that the majority of these Police requests reveal the goods involved are not stolen.
We also work with NZ Police to prosecute people who try to defraud our members, and to assist people that may be at risk.
Trade Me received 1,583 requests for information from the NZ Police in the past year. This graph below shows the nature of the requests.
We liaise with more than 20 government agencies. Many requests are because an agency needs to contact a member to discuss compliance with a regulation or a law.
These are often on matters related to product safety (e.g. members selling unsafe cots or laptop chargers) or biosecurity (e.g. members selling genetically modified tropical fish).
Requests can either be for member information, the provision of advice that a listing should be taken down or simply be a request for Trade Me to pass on information or advice on behalf of the agency to the member directly.
This list shows the number of requests from those agencies, excluding NZ Police:
This list shows the twenty most common pieces of legislation have enabled agencies to request information:
Disputes Tribunal claims
Trade Me works on the basis that people who have never met send money to each other, for goods they have never seen.
While the large majority of the 40,000 trades on Trade Me each day go through without a hitch, disputes sometimes occur.
Where members are unable to resolve disputes and Trade Me cannot help with a resolution, the Disputes Tribunal is often the best avenue for redress.
A member cannot obtain another member’s contact details to apply for a Disputes Tribunal hearing without providing a statutory declaration to Trade Me. This step is in place to help ensure the information is being obtained for the purposes of the hearing and nothing else.
In the past year, we have released information to members for the purposes of taking a Disputes Tribunal claim 446 times.
Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment
We make periodic releases of member details where they have been identified as selling high-risk electrical goods. This is to assist with audits for compliance with the Electricity (Safety) Regulations 2010 and Gas (Safety) Regulations 2010.
We also make case-by-case releases of member details to assist Energy Safety in contacting members about potentially risky electrical goods or gas appliances.
We make case-by-case releases of members’ contact details to allow MBIE to inform them of potential risks with goods they may have purchased or listed.
We make periodic releases of details of members trading in motor vehicles when required under the Motor Vehicle Sales Act 2003. This is to assist with identifying traders who are legally required to be registered as a motor vehicle trader.
Trade Me releases information to Inland Revenue when legally required under the broad powers of the Tax Administration Act 1994.
What is meant by ‘requests’?
Generally, a request is where an agency has sought information about a membership. Most often this is contact information or sales data. Such requests may also result in us removing listings from the site where it is brought to our attention that they may breach the law or our terms and conditions.
A request may also simply highlight an issue with a listing which is then actioned by Trade Me. We are often asked by agencies to pass on messages directly to members as part of the request.
On what basis is information released?
Many government agencies have legislative authority to request or mandate information from private sector companies. We release information only when we believe its release is appropriate to comply with law and as permitted by Principle 11 of the Privacy Act 1993 or we are required to do so by law (e.g. by a search warrant or other notice).
Releases under the Privacy Act can be for various reasons which include to “avoid prejudice to the maintenance of the law by any public sector agency” or “for the conduct of proceedings before any court or tribunal”.
Does Trade Me need members’ permission to release information?
When joining Trade Me, we advise members via our terms and conditions that we release account and other personal information when we believe release is appropriate to comply with law; facilitate court proceedings; enforce or apply our terms and conditions; or protect the rights, property, or safety of Trade Me Limited, our users, or others.
How safe is member data?
Very safe! We follow industry best practice methods in keeping data safe. However we are paranoid and constantly try to work out ways to make it safer.
How often will this report be released?
We’ll aim to publish this data annually.