Friday, August 25, 2006

Privacy concerns over Australian welfare internal data breach

Australian authorities are investigating the inappropriate perusal and alteration of welfare records by employees at "Centrelink". Disciplinary action has been taken against around six hundred employees and some cases have been referred to the police:

Privacy concerns over Centrelink breaches The Daily Telegraph

August 24, 2006 12:00

PRIVACY advocates have serious concerns about the Federal Government's proposed Smartcard after Centrelink staff were caught inappropriately accessing client records.

Six hundred Centrelink staff were caught using sophisticated spyware programs to browse the welfare records of friends, family, neighbours and ex-lovers without authorisation.

A total of 19 Centrelink employees were sacked and 92 resigned after 790 cases of inappropriate access were uncovered.

The head of a privacy taskforce looking into the government's proposed health and welfare Smartcard says he's deeply concerned about the implications for Australians.

The Smartcard will link medical, tax, welfare and other personal details on at least 17 million Australians.

“The Centrelink revelations are deeply disturbing,” Professor Allan Fels told ABC radio yesterday.

“I take some comfort from the fact that the government has caught them and punished them, but there is still a huge weight now on the government to provide full, proper legal and technical protection of privacy with the access card.”

Centrelink said five cases were been referred to Australian Federal Police, more than 300 staff faced salary deductions or fines, another 46 were reprimanded, and the remainder demoted or warned.

Labor says the breaches demonstrate the government's administrative incompetence and wants the privacy commissioner to investigate.

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