The personal details of more than 10,000 asylum seekers are still publicly available online, more than a week after Immigration Minister Scott Morrison assured the Australian public the leak by the the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) had been shut down.
DIBP secretary Martin Bowles last week asked The Guardian Australia, which broke the news of the original error, to return any copies of the information downloaded, saying it was an “inadvertent breach”.
Guardian journalist Asher Wolf replied to Mr Bowles yesterday saying she would not hand over documents, telling Business Insider that “asking for information or stories back from journalists is problematic to say the least”.
In her response, she argued her information was legally obtained because the DIBP published it on the Internet. And startlingly, she revealed it could still be found:
Minister Scott Morrison has made a public assurance all caches of the ﬁle were removed from the Internet.
I would advise the DIBP that I have received advice that the webpage and associated ﬁle was automatically archived from the DIBP website by [REDACTED] and remains online today.
Obviously, I cannot advise who downloaded the document or accessed the information contained within it and I have no intention of providing the DIBP with any of my storage devices.
Ms Wolf added that both she and the newspaper “took all steps to make it clear to the Department that the breach had occurred, without exacerbating the breach by naming the document”.
She said the Minister “exacerbated the breach by naming the relevant document in a public press release”.
Mr Morrison last week said he’d been “advised” that “all possible channels to access this information are closed, including Google and other search engines”.
This week, Mr Bowles revealed that the information was available online for more than a week before the DIBP realised and removed it.
A review into how the breach occurred is underway, but the possibility that the information could still be found online remains.
“Anyone who spends more than 30 seconds on the Internet will realise that once information is there, it’s very hard to scrub out,” Ms Wolf said.
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