There are almost 25,000 Australians who are currently stranded overseas because of Australia’s COVID-19 pandemic cap on arrivals. Stuck and sometimes in a vulnerable position, many of them are liaising with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). And now, some of them have been caught up in an unfortunate leak.
On Wednesday, some stranded Aussies received an email from DFAT with information about a financial hardship program to help those who were struggling with money. The matter of the email was fine. But it was the email’s recipients that were the problem.
In the email, more than 1,000 email addresses were CC’d rather than BCC’d into the email. In effect, DFAT had revealed the email addresses to everyone who was sent the email, as reported by the ABC.
Recipients took to social media to complain about DFAT’s leak.
“Anyone else get the email from DFAT this morning showing the email addresses of ALL stranded Australians,” one person wrote. “What an absolute joke DFAT is. Can’t help us get a flight, but they can carelessly breach our privacy and distribute the private contact details of Aussies in distress.”
Soon after, the department recalled the email — but that relies on users voluntarily deleting the email.
How did DFAT respond to the leak?
DFAT acknowledged the leak and apologised using on Twitter on Wednesday night.
“We apologise for unintentionally disclosing email addresses of stranded Australians we’re trying to help get home. No other personal information was disclosed. We want to get you home, and are working as hard as we can to do so,” @DFAT tweeted.
We apologise for unintentionally disclosing email addresses of stranded Australians we’re trying to help get home. No other personal information was disclosed. We want to get you home, and are working as hard as we can to do so.
— DFAT???????? (@dfat) September 30, 2020
It’s certainly not the first time an Australian institution has leaked the email addresses of members of the public, but privacy breaches (even when it’s just email addresses) can open up people to all kinds of harm.
Certainly, for people already in a tough position, DFAT’s leak just adds insult to injury.