Commonwealth Attorney General’s office involved in a privacy breach

September 2, 2019 |

Sometimes, in fact often times, reality provides better copy than fiction.  The Australian reports that the the office of Christian Porter, the Commonwealth Attorney General, has been involved in a privacy breach.  In sending an email regarding the religious discrimination bill the office revealed the email addresses of more than 100 recipients.  Many of the addressees are religious figures but the list also included a judge and lawyers.

While the Australian’s report is written in a wry manner and in the Strewth column the breach is serious and the cause is quite common.  Senior religious figures, as with senior figures in many organisations, do not advertise their email addresses for fear of harassment and phishing attacks. Sending group emails without hiding the recipients addresses is a product of poor data security training.

It is fair to assume that the Australian was not one of the intended addressees which highlights another aspect of data breaches.  Commonly there is reputational damage with the associated poor publicity.

The article provides:

Who knew the one thing that could unite Australia’s diverse multicultural leaders was a privacy breach by the Attorney-General’s office?

Christian Porter gathered religious leaders and journalists at The Great Synagogue in Sydney’s CBD last Thursday to read his draft religious discrimination bill. Not all attended — the Catholic Church and Australian Christian Lobby boycotted the event and other faith groups were told to avoid being used for a photo opp with Porter.

As the Attorney-General gave his 11-page speech, an email was sent at 11:31am with a link to the draft bill. But Porter’s office forgot to hide the more than 100 recipients, exposing the private emails of some of the most senior members of Australia’s religious, faith, legal and human rights communities.

Including: the Grand Mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohammed; Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies; Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop, Anthony Fisher; the executive council of Australian Jewry co-CEOs Peter Wertheim and Alex Ryvchin; Justice Stephen Rothman SC; Australian National Imams Council spokesman Bilal Rauf; NSW Liberal president Philip Ruddock; and Scott Morrison’s legal adviser Daniel Ward.

“It just looked really sloppy, and a bit odd, given this was all about protecting religious communities,” one religious leader who received the email tells Strewth.

“It took me about five seconds to see everyone on the list there. It’s bizarre because the invitation to the event that was sent beforehand BCC’d everyone. The vibe I got from that email was that it was poorly handled, especially as it was sent out midway through his speech.”

After we alerted Porter’s office to the mistake, they issued an apology to those caught up by the “administrative error”.

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