It was all fun and games at the G20 Summit in Australia — until somebody accidentally leaked highly personal details of the world’s most powerful leaders — including the names, passport numbers, birth dates and visa details of everyone from Barack Obama to Vladimir Putin. The cause of the leak? Microsoft Outlook’s autofill.
The most shocking thing about the G20 leak isn’t actually the autofill detail, either, it’s the secrecy. Australian officials decided not to tell 31 of the world’s most powerful leaders that they’d accidentally shared their sensitive personal information with random people. In a letter obtained by The Guardian, an officer with the Australian privacy commission explains the incident and the reason the data was withheld:
The cause of the breach was human error. [Redacted] failed to check that the autofill function in Microsoft Outlook had entered the correct person’s details into the email ‘To’ field. This led to the email being sent to the wrong person.
Yep that would do it. And why not tell the world leaders about the error?
Given that the risks of the breach are considered very low and the actions that have been taken to limit the further distribution of the email, I do not consider it necessary to notify the clients of the breach.
Just to be safe, the officer says that the recipient of the leaked email — a member of the local organising committee of the Asian Cup — deleted the email and “emptied their deleted items folder.” Case closed!
Not so fast. Australia’s government has been under fire recently for passing controversial data retention legislation, so officials hiding an incident like this doesn’t look good for transparency. Furthermore, when you leak the passport numbers of folks like Angela Merkel, Xi Jinping, Shinzo Abe and David Cameron, you can’t expect nobody to find out. Those viral photos of Putin holding a koala can only distract people for so long.