Following improper sanitisation of documents, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand may have accidentally released commercially sensitive information about New Zealand’s banks.
The bank confirmed On Friday that it was conducting an investigation into why blacked out and unreadable information from documents could be read by viewers of its website. The documents were available for viewing from Thursday afternoon till Friday morning. Although the Reserve Bank is not divulging the information that was available or the banks affected by the development, the information that was available at the site during the two days has been termed commercially sensitive and a potential security breach by banks.
The release also included private information including direct telephone lines for chief executives of New Zealand’s largest banks. According to the head of the banking lobby group, customer information is not believed to be in the documents displayed on the website. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand issued its final policy on Thursday detailing the functions the four major banks could outsource to their Australian parent companies.
A spokesman for the Reserve Bank said, “In practise, some of the information remained readable if certain steps were taken”. The spokesman declined to say whether readers would have been able to extract the information by using the copy and paste functions of computers. “We’ve informed the affected parties, corrected the documents, ensured the blacked-out information is completely unreadable, and of course we are investigating how it happened.” The spokesman would not describe what kind of information was able to be extracted. “The stuff that was redacted was redacted for a reason. The spokesman said the Reserve Bank has not apologised to the banks or admitted it made a mistake stating “we’re not at that stage”. “Our focus is on identifying what happened, how it happened, so we can make sure it never happens again.”
Karen Scott-Howman, chief executive of the New Zealand Bankers’ Association said the industry was aware of the problem.
“We routinely, as banks and the bankers’ association, provide commercially sensitive information to regulators, and we expect it to be kept secure.”
The central bank immediately stopped the long running practice of giving journalists who came to the bank embargoed copies of its documents shortly ahead of the public release after MediaWorks disclosed a cut in the official cash rate.