In 2017 Andie Fox, a recipient of Centrelink benefits, wrote a highly critical opinion piece on Centrelink’s debt recovery system, alleging that she was being pursued for a non-existent debt. In response Centrelink provided Ms Fox’s personal information, previous communications and claims history to a journalist who published an article claiming that Centrelink had been ‘unfairly castigated’ by Fox. The OAIC commenced an investigation into the release and has controversially confirmed Centrelink’s disclosure as permitted under the Privacy Act.
It’s been just over 6 weeks since the government’s notifiable data breach scheme came into force and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has revealed it has received 63 reports of data breaches since the scheme’s start date of February 22. The figure released as part of the OAIC’s first quarterly report on the scheme.
This is somewhat of a stark contrast to the 114 voluntary notifications for data breaches received by the OAIC in the 2016-17 financial year, before the scheme was in place.
Australia’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim is making enquiries into allegations that the personal information of customers of three Australian telcos is being sold online.
Fairfax uncovered an alleged rort involving ‘corrupt insiders’ at the offshore call centres of Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, which has allegedly seen details including customers’ addresses, dates of birth and billing statements leaked to at least one private company in India, which is then allegedly selling the information for up to $1000.
Commissioner Pilgrim has said in a statement that he is working to determine what further action may need to be taken.
All three telcos have also released statements, reiterating that they take the privacy of their customers seriously. Vodafone and Optus have met with the AFP, which has now passed the matter on to Indian authorities.
By Cameron Abbott and Rebecca Murray
The Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim and The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Daniel Therrien have released a joint report on the data breach of cheating website Ashley Madison which affected approximately 36 million Ashley Madison user accounts last year. Read our post on the breach here.
Controversially, despite the company not having a physical presence in Australia, the Commissioners found that Ashley Madison’s parent company Avid Life Media (ALM) was regulated as an “APP entity” due to the fact that it carried on business and collected personal information in Australia. This finding was based on the fact that ALM conducted marketing in Australia, targeted Australian residents for its services and collected the personal information of Australians.
ALM agreed to a number of enforceable undertakings to the Commissioner. Amongst other things, ALM has undertaken to augment its security framework, provide extensive security training for staff and cease its practice of retaining the information of users with deleted, deactivated or inactive accounts. Consistent with the trend in undertakings it requires independent verification of certain compliance steps. Find the undertakings here.
It also seeks to address the accuracy of the records, which is a challenge for a cheating website. Letting someone sign up using for example Tony Blair’s email address captured the attention of the regulators. They focused on the interests under Privacy laws of those whose email addresses were falsely added to the sign up. A confirming email with an option to opt out was not considered an adequate measure.
Read more about the report here.