Government may have to compensate asylum seekers affected by data breach

Privacy Commissioner calls for affected individuals to contact OAIC

Asylum seekers affected by a government data breach may be liable for compensation.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) today announced that it was seeking to contact individuals affected by the data breach, which was exposed by Oliver Laughland, Paul Farrell and Asher Wolf in the Guardian in February 2014.

An investigation led by the Privacy Commissioner concluded that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection had breached the Privacy Act when it failed to “adequately protect” the personal information of more than 9000 asylum seekers held in detention centres in January 2014.

The breach took place when the department embedded an Excel file containing the individuals’ personal details in a document that was publicly available from the department’s website.

“The personal information disclosed in the Data Breach consisted of full names, gender, citizenship, date of birth, period of immigration detention, location, boat arrival details, and the reasons which led to the individual becoming an unlawful non-citizen under the Migration Act 1958,” said a notice published by the OAIC today.

“If you resided in immigration detention on 31 January 2014, and you suffered any loss or damage as a result of the Department’s Data Breach, you will need to provide the Commissioner with information about this,” the notice states.

“The Commissioner will consider whether you are entitled to any remedy, including any compensation, from the Department based on the information and evidence you provide,” it says.

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