State and Federal Government agencies are using private investigators to conduct “optical surveillance” on members of the public, including monitoring the social media accounts of Centrelink recipients. This “open-source intelligence” is a growing trend, bringing questions about online privacy into the spotlight.
Evidence gathered from private social media accounts has been used to investigate Centrelink claims. According to The Daily Telegraph, and in one instance conversations on Twitter were used to prove the relationship status of a couple who were receiving payments as individuals.
eBay accounts are also being monitored in order to verify income claims.
In addition to Centrelink recipients, investigations into fraud and worker’s compensation claims from Workcover NSW have seen contracts to the value of $3 million from the 2015-18 period awarded to more than 10 private investigators.
To date, more than $2 million in fraudulent claims have been discovered via social media surveillance, according to The Department of Human Services.
The Department of Human Services has been contacted for comment regarding the scope and full cost of the surveillance.