Leakage of LEAP data an ongoing privacy issue …. for so long.

February 9, 2014 |

In a constantly changing world there are a few certainties.  One is that the Victoria Police LEAP database will continue to be abused with personal information of Victorians accessed without authorisation and, occasionally (or more often), leaked to those who find such information invaluable; criminals, private investigators and unscrupulous debt collectors to name just a few usual suspects.  In Cops still using LEAP database to snoop on people the Herald Sun today reports that the more things stay the same the more things stay the same. Breaches of the LEAP database has previously been reported by 7.30 (ABC) in May 2013, here, by the SMH in November 2007, here,  and by Stateline on the ABC in 2005 about the inappropriate use of LEAP by Senior Constable Ball of personal information relating to 24 persons over a 4 year period resulting, after disciplinary proceedings, in a fine of $1,500 and a one year good behaviour bond (while retaining the same rank as police officer), here. Having been involved in a police torts action in the Supreme Court I know how hard it is to change police culture.  It is exceptionally difficult but it has to be done.  In this area unauthorised access/interference with privacy should be criminal conduct which is vigorously prosecuted and with actual, not just theoretical, penalties being a term(s) of imprisonment.  In the UK the Information Commissioner is calling for an amendment to the Data Protection Act to empower the courts to imprison those who breach the Act. LEAP is a privacy nightmare which has been ignored for too long.

The Herald Sun article provides

DISHONEST cops still regularly snoop on people’s private information or pass on police secrets with almost two suspected breaches investigated every week.

Abuse of the force’s trouble-plagued LEAP database continues unabated, more than a dozen years after the force was first thrown into crisis over improper use of people’s personal information stored on its LEAP database. And it is more than nine years since the State Ombudsman called for LEAP to be urgently scrapped.

Internal records obtained by the Sunday Herald Sun under Freedom of Information laws show two in five alleged breaches of “secure” police information involve LEAP, which holds information on at least 3.5 million Victorians and businesses linked to millions of incidents, vehicles, items of property, addresses and ­offender records.

Commissioner For Law Enforcement Data Security David Watts says abuse of LEAP crime data has “stubbornly remained at the same levels”, two years after he slated the force for its lack of “necessary rigour or urgency” to plug the leaks.

Mr Watts said the force is now making “steady progress” in preventing other information abuse, with breaches for personal use or media leaks beginning to fall.

However, he also cautions in his last annual report that in April the force was also subject to what Chief Commissioner Ken Lay described as “the gravest breach of police security” he had seen, following the discovery of large numbers of sensitive police records during police raids at various sites around Melbourne linked to outlaw motorbike gangs.

Inspector Ian Geddes said information security was extremely important to Victoria Police but could not say when the antiquated LEAP system would be replaced.

LEAP was to be replaced in 2009 but amid cost blowouts the new LINK rollout was suspended in March 2010 and finally shelved in mid-2011 at a cost of $60.5 million.

In May this year, the Napthine Government announced a further $23 million to be spent over four years; half to fund a “transformation strategy” and half to keep LEAP going for another five years.

Force command then said it would have “designed a clear and efficient way forward to meet our future information needs” by May 2017 – 12 years after an Ombudsman’s report called for the present system to be urgently scrapped.

“At the present time there is no replacement for the LEAP system,” Insp Geddes said.

“Without public confidence in the manner in which we treat all information in the possession of police, our ability to do our job is significantly hampered.

“Our commitment to ensuring the integrity of our information security processes is highlighted with the successes achieved by both Taskforce Keel and Taskforce Eagle in investigating and prosecuting those responsible for breaching the trust of the organisation and the community.”

The data released under FOI shows police investigated 33 LEAP allegations, with 16 substantiated and six still under investigation.

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