From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Major data breach puts asylum seekers at risk. Sometime this morning the Department of Immigration dumped pages of data from its website. The Guardian first revealed why: documents have accidentally revealed the personal details of nearly 10,000 asylum seekers and other detainees. It’s a disastrous data breach that will endanger the safety of asylum seekers and their families.

Crikey heard journalist and information activist Asher Wolf discovered the information embedded in publicly available data on the department’s website. We asked the department to confirm the breach and got this response:

“This information was never intended to be in the public domain.

“The department acknowledges that the file was vulnerable to unauthorised access. The file has been removed and the department is investigating how this occurred to ensure that it does not happen again.”

What has been revealed — which we’ve seen — is extraordinary detail on every detainee in Australia’s care: not merely the names of asylum seekers but their mode of arrival, the vessels they arrived 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.

Personal and particularly identifying information about asylum seekers is closely guarded by the department out of concern that regimes or non-state forces from which asylum seekers are fleeing may attempt reprisals against them and their families who remain behind. The security of information about asylum seekers is also one of the ostensible reasons why media access to asylum seekers is so limited, in order to reduce the likelihood of identifying information being publicly revealed. The breach potentially places the lives of tens of thousands of people in danger in countries like Iran, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

The information appears to have been embedded in a number of documents over an extended period, meaning anyone who has downloaded them has access to the information, provided those with the documents are able to use the appropriate tools to reveal the data. Given the potential damage that could result from the data, The Guardian did the right thing in not providing additional information about the documents. We’ve done the same.

Graft, greed and corruption at Manus. And meanwhile. For somewhere so oft reported on, there are almost no first-hand journalistic accounts of what’s happening on Manus Island, which is notoriously difficult for journalists to access — we’re forced to rely on anonymous tips from people on the island. Crikey received an impassioned email yesterday saying the detention centre commonly called in PNG police to handle minor matters that should be handled by local staff, leaving asylum seekers in miserable limbo for days.

“PNG policing is a well-known tragic joke — that is why the Australian Government gives hundreds of millions every year to the law and justice sector,” our tipster wrote. Police turn up to duty drunk, and have failed to do anything about the millions of dollars of stores and equipment stolen by locals from the detention centre. The centre’s perimeter, our tipster continued, is a flimsy fence no better than you’d find around a school oval, and it could certainly be overwhelmed by a crowd:

“The place is not fit to handle thousands of men imprisoned in what is effectively a chicken coup … If there was a scuffle, fright or fire, any of the fences on Manus could be pushed over by a crowd running for their lives.”

Furthermore, the centre isn’t safe, with thefts and bashings commonly taking place around the centre as “police and local landowners squabble over the huge amounts of waste, money and resources being thrown at the place”.

“Please explain to your readers that last week we gave asylum to a person from PNG. Why? Because PNG has one of the worst rates of violence of any kind in the world … The men are terrified of the place.”

Did Hockey’s bluster drive Toyota out? After Ford and Holden went, most saw Toyota’s exit as inevitable. But was it? According to our tipster: “Toyota was prepared to announce that a new Camry would be produced in Australia, but the run around given by Joe Hockey made them change their mind.” Believe it or not.

A wrap is not a meal. Another disgruntled traveler tells us that on a recent Qantas flight our mole was served a wrap, with no tray. “Cost-cutting has taken a turn for the worst,” the tipster said, adding that a wrap is not a meal. “I double-checked to make sure I wasn’t on Virgin, which may have overtaken Qantas in terms of the service stakes.”

Airlining’s a tough game, and both airlines are under pressure to cut costs. But you’d think Qantas, keen to retain its 65% share of the domestic travel market, would know better than to skimp on meals. Just what are you being served up on board, readers?

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to [email protected] or use our guaranteed anonymous form

Peter Fray

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