Version of 9 September 2014


From time to time, the APF needs to respond to communications from members of the public. These are most commonly enquiries or requests for advice.

These sometimes come to specific Board members, and sometimes to generic email-addresses such as {enquiries, info, mail}

The APF’s primary function is influencing policy. It also provides information resources, and occasionally mounts campaigns, and sponsors events such as the Big Brother Awards.

The APF does not have the funds, resources or expertise to assist individuals with privacy complaints.

In addition, there are circumstances in which the APF, or individual members of the APF, particularly officers and Board-members, might be exposed to unintended liabilities if statements to individuals, or public statements, were phrased in ways that could be construed to be advice.

This document expresses APF’s Policy in relation to the handling of enquiries from members of the public, in particular those that are of the nature of complaints about privacy-invasive behaviour.

The document comprises the following:

  1. A Statement of APF’s approach to responding to enquiries (below)
  2. A Template (in a separate ASCII file, so that it can be readily used in any mail-client, editor or word-processor)
  3. Additional ‘boilerplate’ that may be useful in responding to enquiries (ditto)
  4. Sample responses (ditto)

Statement of APF’s Approach

The APF is frequently contacted by members of the public with enquiries, some of which relate to policy questions, but many of which relate to specific situations of concern to the enquirer.

A small proportion are vituperative, or ‘strange’, and these are commonly left unanswered.

Where the enquiry warrants a response, the APF’s policy is to endeavour to provide one, taking into account that fact that the APF’s primary contributionsare in relation to policy matters.

Where a response is provided, the following further guidance applies:

  • respond in a style and language that is likely to convey the message to the enquirer, i.e. in most cases, the expression shouldn’t be over-formal
  • communicate that the APF is a voluntary organisation whose primary focus is on convincing government and business organisations to adopt privacy-friendly processes and avoid privacy-unfriendly ones
  • let the recipient know that we don’t have the resources to provide advice
  • where practicable, provide some constructive comment, information and/or pointers to where information can be found.
    This will often be in APF’s own Policy Statements, but there may be readily-found information, e.g. on the sites of Privacy Commissioners
  • where appropriate, provide guidance about where a complaint can be addressed
  • avoid language that could be construed as representing advice in anything more than the most general sense of that word
  • where advice has been sought, include words that make quite clear that the APF cannot, and does not, provide advice

Unless the circumstances clearly justify its omission, the following standard’disclaimer’ is to be included:

The APF regrets that it is not in a position to provide advice, or to assistindividuals in relation to specific complaints.

Resources provided to assist in responding to enquiries are: