In a stark reminder that technology can have dire consequences on privacy, a database processing glitch has been identified as the cause of a bungle that resulted in 30,000 M5 motorists receiving other people's credit card details.
Brian Staniland, spokesperson for Interlink, operator of the western Sydney M5 motorway, said the glitch "and other minor problems" were found in the company's Oracle database after billing statements were switched from monthly to quarterly.
However, Staniland said the company was "not prepared to divulge details".
The billing statements let M5 tollway users, who prepay their toll, claim reimbursement under the New South Wales government's cash-back scheme, according to Charlie Lynn, Shadow Minister for Western Sydney and Shadow Minister for Public Works and Services and a user of the road.
The cash-back scheme for the motorway was introduced by the NSW government in 1996 after it broke a key election promise to lift the toll on the motorway - a 16-kilometre stretch of road connecting Liverpool to Bexley - in Sydney's south west, according to Lynn.
Lynn said he received a statement that listed another person's credit card number and expiry date.
"Not only were the credit card details wrong, but charge summaries were different to those detailed on the statement," Lynn said.
"Evidently, processing errors extended to the reconciliations," he added.
The first four digits which identify the bank that issued the card were blocked out, Lynn said, expressing his concern that another account holder had his credit card details.
"Anyone who had a tendency towards mischief could easily use this glitch to their advantage," he said.
An Oracle spokesperson said no service request had been logged regarding the error. "This was not a database error," the spokesperson told Computerworld.