CCC issues warning to public sector about confidential information - 12 May 2016
To coincide with Privacy Awareness Week, the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) has today issued a report to raise awareness of the consequences Queensland’s public sector employees face if they access a person’s private information without a proper authorisation or purpose.
Queensland’s public sector agencies handle a variety of sensitive and confidential information. Unauthorised access and disclosure is not only an invasion of privacy but potentially can be a criminal offence and grounds for the CCC to investigate.
CCC Executive Director, Corruption, Dianne McFarlane said the CCC expects all public sector employees from the Director-General and executive level down are accountable for the safe storage of confidential information and must ensure this information is used only for lawful purposes.
“Once information is released from an agency without proper authority, there is no way that agency can control where that information ends up. Any unauthorised release and disclosure is a serious breach of the trust placed in public sector employees,” Ms McFarlane said.
“Confidential information is entrusted to an agency for lawful purposes, not for the personal use of its employees. Unauthorised access and disclosure can adversely affect projects, give unfair advantage to a person or entity, breach a person’s privacy and will damage the reputation of the agency involved.”
Since 1 July 2015, the CCC has finalised 15 corruption investigations related to the abuse of confidential information resulting in 81 criminal charges and 11 recommendations for disciplinary action.
Allegations of misuse of information is increasing and currently represents 11.5% of all allegations of corrupt conduct received by the CCC. This has risen from 7% in 2014-15. A recent audit by the CCC identified common breaches included inappropriate access to tendering and recruitment information, personal health records, custody information, criminal histories and prisoner transfer dates. Allegations related to the Queensland Police Service accounts for about two thirds of all allegations of the misuse of information.
Today the CCC has written to all Director-Generals and public sector chief executive officers reminding them they are accountable for the safe storage of the public’s information.
“Unfortunately, misuse of confidential information remains one of the most common types of corruption allegations that are referred to the CCC. It is consistently in the top five allegation types we receive.
“The CCC takes the opportunity in Privacy Awareness Week to remind all public sector employees in Queensland that the unauthorised access or disclosure of confidential and personal information is an invasion of privacy. It is potentially a criminal offence that can lead to serious punishments,” Ms McFarlane said.
The CCC’s report titled Confidential information: Unauthorised access, disclosure and the risks of corruption in the Queensland public sector is available from the CCC’s website. http://www.ccc.qld.gov.au/confidential-information
For more information on Privacy Awareness Week visit the Office of the Information Commissioner for Queensland at www.oic.qld.gov.au.