Australian officials had agreed to hide a privacy breach they accidentally committed against world leaders who attended the G20 Summit 2014 in Brisbane.
An official from Australia’s Department of Immigration sent the personal information of the world leaders to organizers of the Asian Cup football tournament. Information included in the leak are the names, dates of birth, titles, nationalities, passport numbers, visa grant numbers and visa subclasses of United States president Barack Obama, Russian president Vladimir Putin, German chancellor Angela Merkel, Chinese president Xi Jinping, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, Indonesian president Joko Widodo, and British prime minister David Cameron.
An employee of Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border protection has committed the blunder, with the immigration officer recommending not informing world leaders regarding the privacy breach.
A document obtained by The Guardian through the freedom of information act reveals that the director of the visa services division had contacted the immigration department and informed officials of the breach that happened on Nov 7 2014.
The decision not to inform the leaders whose personal information was compromised might have violated privacy laws in countries such as Britain, Germany and France. Privacy laws in these three countries require that aggrieved parties should be informed about the breach, The Guardian said in its report.
“The cause of the breach was human error… 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 document stated.
Since human error was involved, and there was nothing systematic or institutional with the breach, risks are very low, the document reads.
“Given that the risks of the breach are considered very low and the actions that have been taken to limit the further distribution of the email, I do not consider it necessary to notify the clients of the breach,” the immigration wrote in the document.
The decision was a result of the Asian Cup organizers deleting the email and emptying the deleted items folder, the document said. Hence, it was “unlikely that the information is in the public domain.”
“The Asian Cup local organising committee do not believe the email to be accessible, recoverable or stored anywhere else in their systems,” the document said.
The White House is Investigating
White House press secretary Eric Schultz told the press that reports of privacy breach are now being investigated.
“I have seen those reports. I can’t confirm that at this time. I can tell you that we’re looking into them and we’ll take all appropriate steps necessary to ensure the privacy and security of the president’s personal information,” Schultz was as quoted as saying by Australia’s ABC.
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