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25 Aug 2006

Australian privacy breach

Around 100 staff have resigned, 19 have been sacked and around 350 have been disciplined as a result of a two-year investigation into their unauthorized use of database facilities at Centrelink, the Australian federal government's social security and welfare agency. As such, Centrelink staff have access to a wide range of personal information. Five cases were serious enough to be referred to the federal police. It is reported that spyware was used to track staff use of the systems. A Centrelink general manager said "It was done for a whole range of reasons - from just sticky-beaking, through to at the more serious end of records actually being changed ... What this shows is that we have zero tolerance for any people who have surfed the details of the family and friends or peeked at records of their neighbours in our system." This statement fails to acknowledge the potential for abusing such wideranging access to personal data in order to commit identity theft.
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