Australia’s privacy commissioner will investigate how the personal details of some 10,000 people who have sought asylum in Australia became available on the internet.
Immigration minister Scott Morrison said this evening the breach was “unacceptable” and said he had “asked the department Secretary to keep me informed of the actions that have been initiated, including any disciplinary measures that may be taken”.
It’s one of the biggest privacy breaches in Australian history and hugely embarrassing for the federal government which treats immigration and border protection matters with the utmost secrecy.
Privacy commissioner Timothy Pilgrim confirmed today he would be investigating the breach. He said:
“I have spoken to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and have been assured that the information is no longer publically available. This is a serious incident and I will be conducting an investigation into how it occurred.
“As part of this investigation, the Department has undertaken to provide me with a detailed report into the incident. Further, the OAIC will be working with the Department to make sure they are fully aware of their privacy obligations and to ensure that incidents of this nature will not be repeated.”
The immigration department has confirmed the breach, and told Computer World: “The department acknowledges that the file was vulnerable to unauthorised access. The file has been removed and the department is investigating how this occurred to ensure that it does not happen again.”
The available information contained the names, nationalities, location, arrival date and boat arrival information of the asylum seekers.
Refugee support groups are outraged and say the breach could lead to potential future reprisals for the individuals involved.
KPMG has been engaged to review what happened and prevent a repeat.
Morrison said he had been advised “all possible channels to access this information are closed, including Google and other search engines. It appears the personal information underlying the report cannot be accessed through search engines.”