Payne ‘very sorry’ over DFAT’s accidental disclosure of email addresses

By Shannon Jenkins

Friday October 23, 2020

Maris Payne (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Foreign minister Marise Payne has said she is “very sorry” after Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials accidentally revealed the email addresses of a number of vulnerable Australians stuck overseas.

The Australian embassy in Paris on Wednesday disclosed the details of at least 15 people when it emailed Australians who were stranded in France, according to Guardian Australia.

In a repeat of a similar incident which occurred less than a month ago, the department accidentally cc’d the email addresses in its message, leaving them exposed to other recipients. DFAT attempted to recall the email after Guardian Australia alerted it to the mistake.

Recipients were then notified and asked to delete the email, with the department stating it was reviewing internal processes “to ensure such mistakes do not happen again”. The incident was the third breach since July.

Earlier this month The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age revealed that DFAT had disclosed sensitive details about an Australian citizen’s family member on July 29 when it sent a private email to more than 300 Australians stranded in South America. The person whose details were leaked was not informed of the breach until August 12.

Then, in late September, the department sent stranded Australians an email containing information on a new loans program. Initial media reports stated that 1021 email addresses had been disclosed when the department accidentally cc’d the details, but DFAT later revealed 2727 people had been identified, and apologised.

Payne apologised for the incidents on Friday.

“I am very sorry that these events have occurred. And as you say, this is the third occasion. I am sorry that they have occurred,” she told ABC’s AM.

Payne said DFAT secretary Frances Adamson has spoken with staff “to endeavour to ensure it doesn’t happen again”.

“I know our officials are trying very hard to support as many Australians as they possibly can overseas. It is important to be careful with people’s private information, and that has absolutely been reinforced to my department,” she said.

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