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Feb 19, 2014

Now Morrison puts his foot in it: comments compound asylum seeker threat

Scott Morrison has compounded a serious data breach by the Department of Immigration by providing the location of documents that reveal personal information on asylum seekers.


Immigration Minister Scott Morrison appears to have worsened the Department of Immigration’s accidental release of information relating to asylum seekers by revealing exactly where the information was located, further exposing asylum seekers and their families to the potential for retribution.

The Guardian revealed yesterday that information on the personal details of nearly 10,000 asylum seekers and other people in immigration detention had been embedded in data available on the Department of Immigration’s website, after journalist and information activist Asher Wolf found the information in documents downloadable from the site. The department removed the material after being contacted by The Guardian mid-morning.

Those with the right tools could access not merely the names of asylum seekers but their mode of arrival, the vessels they arrived on if they are maritime arrivals, their countries of origin, whether they are a child or adult, the family groups they are travelling with, whether they are in community detention or in a Department of Immigration facility and internal departmental nomenclature.

In its initial report, The Guardian declined to reveal where the information was located. Crikey — which was also tipped off about the breach and in possession of both the downloadable files and the information embedded in them — also chose not to reveal any information about the nature of the files, given that anyone who had downloaded them before they were removed would know where to look for the information.

However, Morrison issued a media release yesterday that stated in which documents the personal information of asylum seekers was located and when they had been released. The media release was still online this morning. Crikey has again decided to err on the side of caution and not to link to the media release, or quote the relevant section of it, for fear of compounding the problem. Fairfax, however, has quoted the relevant passage of the release.

Morrison went on to call the data breach by his department as “unacceptable” and was correct to do so. An independent review of what happened by KPMG is now underway.

This error by departmental staff may well have extended back well before the Coalition’s period in government. However, in identifying which documents contained the information, Morrison has gone much further than The Guardian or Crikey chose to do and has potentially tipped off anyone who has previously downloaded the documents that they have considerable personal data about asylum seekers in their possession. HTML versions of the documents were also still available via Google’s cache, but the Department has told Crikey they do not contain the embedded information.

Personal information about the identities of asylum seekers is tightly controlled out of concern that the governments of countries from which people are seeking asylum, or non-government forces in those countries, may take reprisals against the families of asylum seekers, or asylum seekers themselves if they fail in their bid for asylum overseas. Any information about asylum seekers in Australia is thus likely to be closely monitored by the intelligence agencies of countries like Iran, China and Vietnam.

Morrison’s media release has made it significantly easier for anyone to locate crucial information about people who have sought our protection.


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31 thoughts on “Now Morrison puts his foot in it: comments compound asylum seeker threat

  1. paddy

    Morrison’s performance plays out like some particularly dark satire. What a pity there are real people, put at real risk by this latest piece of breathtaking stupidity.

  2. Barrington Carrington

    Hahaha, hilarious Crikey! As if we’re going to believe that a government minister would make such as grievous error as this. What…? He did? Seriously…? Oh…

  3. Liamj

    What makes anyone think Morrison erred? His policy is to frighten refugees away, and his enthusiasm for G4S & PNG stormtroopers hasn’t waned with the recent killing. Ensuring the info leak was as comprehensive as possible is a no-brainer, from his no-ethics POV.

  4. Marie Ryan

    My jubilance at the complete mess Morrison and cohorts are making now they are in govt (after their 6 years of relentless mocking of Labor) is modified by the tragic consequences for the asylum seekers who have the misfortune to be under their control.

  5. Patriot

    Who cares? Not me. They all give fake names and ages anyway. That’s why they have to ditch their documents before they get here. Who could forget the balding 15 year old Afghan with wrinkles.

    Coming to Australia clearly isn’t working out for these people anymore. I think they just need to find another country to go to.

  6. MJPC

    Will AG Brandt publicly criticise his fellow traveller for making sensitive information available?
    We have had wikileaks, now Morrileaks!

  7. David Duncan

    It is strange, the Minister is so well practised at keeping “on-water” operational military matters quiet…

  8. drmick

    More fabulous news from the crikey politician of the year and his team. What next? Bring in the army to break up unions? Close the ABC so absolutely no truth gets told anywhere?. Yep , politician of the century at this rate.

  9. Nigel Stanley

    The only good thing about this Morrison creature is his incompetence.

  10. John64

    Crikey has again decided to err on the side of caution and not to link to the media release, or quote the relevant section of it, for fear of compounding the error.

    No, you’ll just write an entire article about it, pointing out that it’s mentioned in the press release – which any tard who knows how to use Google (or God forbid, knows where the Ministerial press releases come out… which is what, everyone?) can find out.

    Oh and by the way…

    HTML versions of the documents were also still available via Google’s cache, although it’s unclear whether they contain the embedded information.

    The Minister addresses that in the press release you don’t want to mention (but did): “It appears the personal information underlying the report *cannot be accessed through search engines*.”

    Morrison’s media release has made it significantly easier for anyone to locate crucial information about people who have sought our protection.

    How many people read media releases?

    How many people read Crikey?

    Crikey’s article about Morrison’s media release has made it significantly easier for anyone to locate crucial information about people who have sought our protection. Before I read Crikey, I didn’t even know he’d mentioned the actual name of the report.

    Thanks Crikey!

  11. Gerard

    Heaven deliver us from “patriotism” that thinks this sort of thing is just great!

  12. Repete

    Petrol was nearing $1 & Howard was almost on the ropes. Who would have thought a little political expediency with the Tampa standoff would have lead to the obscenity of Manus Island. Sadly, the Australia that I once thought as a decent society has been poisoned during the passing of these 12 years.

  13. Dez Paul

    What Gerard and Marie said.

    Scrot gives Morrisons a bad name everywhere. Jim, if ya can hear me, please haunt the him with endless repeats of “Riders on the Storm”

  14. The Pedanticist

    Patriotism is just cheap, ugly, ignorant parochialism.

  15. zut alors

    I’m with Liamj @ #4 on this – Morrison is so obsessive with keeping every morsel of information to his bosom that there’s no way he’s erred. My gut says the detail he provided was intentional.

    But given the benefit of doubt it reveals Morrison as either pernicious or a buffoon.

  16. Andybob

    Simply deleting a link to data from a web page these days won’t prevent people continuing to access the link and download from it using the Wayback Machine. Nowadays you have to take the data offline. This situation sounds a bit more complex than that, but I wouldn’t want to underestimate Govt’s capacity to make mistakes on the interwebz.

  17. klewso

    “Children Overboard”, “fire-walls” – it’s the second cumming of Peter Reith?

  18. Glen

    I don’t detect any embedded data in several older versions of the doc. This appears to have been a one-off; perhaps by a new operator who didn’t understand object embedding.

    Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

  19. Thomas McLoughlin

    There is a legal concept in Australian refugee law of “sur place” whereby the danger to the asylum seeker may have a legal basis out of what happens AFTER they arrive in Australia.

    That is, where intervening events make return high risk even if not a refugee to begin with.

    I note the International Catholic Migration Commission defines a “refugee sur place” as

    “Persons who were not refugees when they left their countries of origin, but who become refugees at a later date, owing to intervening events. Refugees sur place may owe their fear of persecution to a change in the country of origin, such as through a coup d ‘état, or to bona fide political activities undertaken in the country of refuge. ”

    Question now whether to that list may now be added the intervening event of Minister Morrison de facto publicising the details of asylum seekers?

    The legal submission may be that in dictatorial countries the local, regional or national levels of government power and influence as peddlers of political violence will take a dim view of anyone known, by necessary implication, and by way of their aslyum application, to have made damning accusations against their government justifying refugee status.

    Local Australians might consider it this way – how would they feel if someone fled Australia seeking asylum and accusing us of terrible oppression. It wouldn’t go down well. Probably worse if it were true. Well, it’s pretty much the same for other countries when their citizens run and make adverse testimony.

    It may be the Minister should consider his position.

  20. Glen

    Andyb, the doc is not at Wayback. It either just missed archiving (there is an archived link to it with today’s date), or has been removed. One hopes they thought of that (but, err, see my previous comment).

    As Bernard said, it is at Google cache, but that copy does not contain the embedded data.

  21. Dr Dagg

    Morrison must be a journalist’s dream come true. A numbskull with strong convictions, he will be a source of endless stories. Add in Brandis, Abetz, Pyne, Joyce, Bishop et al, we really have the A-Team in place.

  22. Venise Alstergren

    DR DAGG: You left out Abbott’s favourite yes man. Chrissy Wissy Pyne. One of the major bullies of the Abbott government and definitely one of the minor intellects of any Liberal government past and present: probably future as well.

  23. colin skene

    Yes, Dr Dagg, the A-team for astute reporters such as those on here. But, Mr and Mrs Australia won’t read about it because Rupert won’t bother reporting it. Net effect of being so blatantly loathesome and incompetent? Effectively zero I think. He’ll hold his “Shire” seat with a solid majority because his message is what they want to hear.

  24. AR

    PatrIdiot – speaking of false names, how many do you use in the intertube to get your jollies being a total arse?

  25. AR

    oh-oh, Crikey… (is)in possession of both the downloadable files and the information embedded in them.
    Look outside the window, the Praetorian Guard might be there soon and make you smash your hard drive – you are treasonous traitors betraying your betters and in possession of stolen documents etc etc.

  26. banistersmind

    If they start referencing the Abbott Government as characters from Star Wars, I will be very unhappy.

  27. klewso

    Good point (19) Glen – malice:stupidity – if only Abbott knew about that when he was Opposition Leader?

  28. David Hand

    Hey guys,
    Wake up an smell the coffee.

    Out here in the real world, we haven’t had an illegal boat arrival since mid-December. Two months without a boat. Now we read that the inflow into Indonesia has reduced to next to nothing.

    Do you all remember the way you got into Abbott’s “three word slogan” that he “could never implement”? Hahahaha.

    Now you are focusing on some of the 50,000 that got in under Labor. Anything to attack a government that is doing what the electorate elected it to do. And a minister who’s stopped the boats.

    When is someone at Crikey, anyone at all, going to acknowledge the spectacular success of the Abbott government in this difficult policy area? Anyone? Helllooooooo???

  29. klewso

    Credit where it’s dew – to the Propel a Fowl Party and all that sale in her – they have “stopped the boats” (21/2/14).
    That’s one “promise” he’s delivered on – where cost (including our national reputation) was no consideration. Pity about the others?
    [“Praise be for not cutting your Nos off to spite our face”?]

  30. greg atkinson

    Just found crikey out of frustration of australian mainstream media on providing an accurate report on these important issues.thanks.Who would believe Scot Morrison on anything.thanks again.

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