“Major systemic failure”: The Federal Court of Australia published full names of asylum seekers on the Commonwealth Courts Portal

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham, Michelle Aggromito and Rebecca Gill

The Federal Court of Australia has suffered a catastrophic data breach in which the names of individuals seeking protection visas in Australia have been published on the publicly available Commonwealth Courts Portal database for years.

Ordinarily, the files of such applicants are listed by pseudonyms which are a collection of numbers and letters.

Given that authorities in foreign countries can access the publicly available database, the potential is that they can match the information against their own records to identify those seeking asylum. If those individuals are denied protection visas in Australia and returned to their country of origin, there is a very real and serious risk of authorities inflicting serious harm on those individuals.

What’s also concerning is that according to the ABC, the Federal Court was first warned about this breach some years ago, followed by multiple warnings on a case-by-case basis. However, as outlined by the ABC, it has been alleged by a migration lawyer that the Court “failed to grasp the systemic nature of the problem” and as such failed to fix the issue.

A spokesperson for the Federal Court described the disclosure as a “major systemic failure”, given that the individuals’ names were published on the database for a number of years, and that the Court has identified approximately 400 asylum seekers, so far, whose full names had been published next to their pseudonyms.

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