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Minister’s apology for security breach that put victim’s details online

An investigation has been launched into a major security breach after a child abuse survivor’s private details were uploaded to someone else’s myGov account.

Jun 03, 2021, updated Jun 03, 2021
Australian Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston. (AAP Image/David Mariuz)

Australian Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston. (AAP Image/David Mariuz)

Confidential information including the person’s address, phone number, bank details and Centrelink number were shared with a complete stranger.

Their application to the national redress scheme, outlining the sexual abuse they suffered, was also shared.

The Brisbane man who received the person’s details was also a survivor and found the privacy violation deeply distressing.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston has apologised for the bureaucratic bungle and breach of trust.

“I regret most sincerely this error has occurred and that any trauma or distress that has been caused to the person whose information has been incorrectly uploaded,” she told a Senate hearing on Thursday.

“I believe those sentiments were passed on to the person directly by the officer who contacted her, but yes, I deeply regret what has happened.”

Senator Ruston said the department had made improvements to avoid it happening again.

The person affected has been contacted by a specialist officer but the minister said she would also be happy to speak with them directly.

Despite the privacy breach, Senator Ruston insisted it remained safe for people to enter the national redress scheme for institutional child sexual abuse.

“I can’t reiterate enough we take the confidentiality and privacy of individuals who are seeking to gain redress through this scheme very, very seriously,” she said.

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The information has since been removed but has left victims and survivors of child sexual abuse reeling.

The federal opposition fears there could be many more breaches and has called for an investigation into how the incident happened and how often it had occurred.

It has identified at least 10 incidents of privacy breaches through the redress scheme.

Senior public servant Liz Hefren-Webb confirmed an investigation had been launched after the latest incident was uncovered last Friday.

“We absolutely apologise without reservation to the person it has affected,” she said.

Survivor organisations have not been included in the department’s initial investigation.

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