Kim Dotcom Loses Privacy Battle Following High Court Appeal

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In March, Kim Dotcom was awarded damages after his requests for the government to hand over information held on him were denied. That ruling was immediately appealed by the Crown. The New Zealand High Court has now overturned the earlier decision by the Human Rights Review Tribunal that concluded that Dotcom's privacy rights had been breached.

Ever since his cloud storage site Megaupload was shut down in a blaze of publicity in 2012, Kim Dotcom has been fighting legal battles on several fronts.

One of those was aimed at forcing the government to hand over information relating to his case.

In 2015, Dotcom asked dozens of ministers and multiple government departments to “urgently” disclose information. Most of the entities receiving the requests transferred them to then-Attorney General Chris Finlayson. He denied the requests, describing them as vexatious and baseless.

Dotcom subsequently filed a complaint with the Human Rights Review Tribunal (HRRT), accusing the New Zealand Government of wrongfully withholding information. In March 2018, the Tribunal ruled in Dotcom’s favor, stating that the Crown was “in clear breach of its obligations under the Privacy Act.”

Dotcom was awarded NZ$60,000 in damages for “loss of dignity or injury to feelings” plus NZ$30,000 to compensate for the information not being handed over. However, the Crown quickly appealed the decision and in September the matter was heard before the High Court in Wellington.

In a decision published today, Dotcom was handed defeat after the High Court sided with the Attorney-General’s appeal.

“We find that there was a proper and lawful purpose for the transfer of the requests and that, because of the insistence that all 52 requests were required to be responded to urgently, on the ground that the information sought was relevant to the eligibility proceedings, they were vexatious,” ruling reads.

“Had we been required to determine the issues of remedies, we would have quashed the remedies ordered against those entities that were not defendants; set the awards of damages aside on the basis they were wholly erroneous and remitted the question of damages to the HRRT for determination in accordance with the principles outlined in this decision.”

In other words, the High Court ruling states that Dotcom should not have received the damages he was granted back in March.

“The damages awarded were wholly erroneous as there was no evidential basis for assuming that the information sought would have been relevant to the proceedings and there was no direct evidence relating to Mr Dotcom having suffered loss of dignity or injury to feelings such as to warrant an award..,” the Court notes.

True to form, Kim Dotcom received the news with defiance. This morning the serial entrepreneur slammed the decision as bad for New Zealanders.

“The High Court did not just ignore the law and parliaments intention. New law was made from the bench. This new law means Kiwis will have a harder time to access information they are legally entitled to. The Government will use this against Privacy Act requests it doesn’t like,” he said.

Shortly after the decision was published, Kim added to his earlier comments with an outburst on Twitter, suggesting that some judges in New Zealand are corrupt and care little about the law.

Of course, like most decisions handed down against Dotcom, this one can be appealed. A short time ago the Megaupload founder confirmed that his team will be taking that option.

“We will obviously appeal today’s judgment from the Wellington High Court. It is ignorant of the law and parliament’s intention to provide citizens with access to information that the Government holds about them. A bad day for human rights in New Zealand. The fight goes on,” he concludes.


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