Personal data of Australian visa applicants reportedly leaked following email typo

ABC has reported that 317 individuals applying for an Australian visa had their health information shared in error.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

An investigation by the ABC has revealed that the personal health information of over 300 people applying for Australian visas was accidentally emailed to an incorrect address as a result of a "typo".

The report details that the email containing information on 317 individuals was incorrectly sent to a member of the general public in 2015.

Bupa is contracted by the Department of Home Affairs to assess the health of people applying for visas and permanent residency in Australia.

According to the ABC, immigration medical assessments, carried out by Bupa and its subcontractors, are required for certain visa applications and for people applying for permanent residency in Australia.

The breach, the report detailed, occurred as a result of Bupa's subcontractor Sonic HealthPlus removing data from secure government systems.

See also: Bupa touts customer experience in digital transformation

In 2014, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) found that Home Affairs -- formerly the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) -- was in violation of the Privacy Act by unlawfully disclosing personal information when it published the details of approximately 9,250 asylum seekers.

A document containing the full names, gender, citizenship, date of birth, period of immigration detention, location, boat arrival details, and the reasons why the individual was deemed to be "unlawful" was available on the DIBP web site for around eight and a half days, as well as remaining available on Achive.org for approximately 16 days.

The source of the privacy breach was determined to be from the copying and pasting of a Microsoft Excel chart onto Microsoft Word by a DIBP staff member, resulting in the underlying data that renders the chart being embedded into the Word document.

Need to disclose a breach? Read this: Notifiable Data Breaches scheme: Getting ready to disclose a data breach in Australia

On the misuse of health data, security firm UpGuard last week detailed that a database containing information on individuals from Australia and New Zealand had exposed data connected to clinical trials.

The database belonged to Neoclinical, an Australia-based company that matches individuals with active clinical trials.

The database included collections for different entity types involved in connecting users to clinical trials, such as the accounts of organisations running the trials and information on the "users" themselves seeking entry to those trials.

On the same day, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission commenced court proceedings at Federal Court against online health booking platform HealthEngine for sharing patient data with insurance brokers, and manipulating patient reviews and ratings.


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