Microsoft Outlook email address autofill error leaks passport details of 31 world leaders

When it comes to bureaucratic screw-ups, the Guardian Australia has just published the astonishing details of a gold-medal winning performance by Australian immigration officials ahead of last year’s G20 summit in Brisbane. It all happened because of an autofill error in Microsoft Outlook, the email application.

US president Barack Obama, the presidents of Russia, Indonesia and China, German chancellor Angela Merkel, and the prime ministers of India, Japan and Britain were among 31 world leaders who had critical details, such as passport numbers, leaked when the Australian immigration department mistakenly sent them to the organisers of the Asian Cup soccer tournament.

The Guardian obtained details of the incident under freedom of information, with the director of the visa services at Immigration and Border Protection contacting Australia’s privacy commissioner on November 7, 2014, seeking urgent advice about the breach.

The correspondence details how it happened, with the director explaining:

“The cause of the breach was human error. [Redacted] failed to check that the autofill function in Microsoft Outlook had entered the correct person’s details into the email ‘To’ field. This led to the email being sent to the wrong person.

“The matter was brought to my attention directly by [redacted] immediately after receiving an email from [the recipient] informing them that they had sent the email to the wrong person.

The person who received it deleted the files and Asian Cup officials did not believe it was stored or recoverable. The immigration official said it was “unlikely that the information is in the public domain”, but recommended against telling the G20 leaders of the breach.

The Guardian reports that immigration minister Peter Dutton’s office did not respond to questions.

Read more about what happened here.

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