This week in data – 19th July

Data breaches aren’t just damaging to your reputation – they’ll strip your coffers, too. The Department of Immigration has just said a hack it suffered in 2014, when the personal details of more than 9,000 asylum seekers were leaked online, is costing the department nearly $1 million.

The leak originally happened when staff copied charts and tables from an Excel spreadsheet to another document, meaning data was still in the tables when moved to a Word doc.

The Department has even told the budget estimates committee that the final cost could be higher.”Given the varying scope and nature of the legal matters that remain on foot, including any appeal right the parties involved will have available to them at the conclusion of those matters, the department is unable to provide an estimate of the costs that may be incurred in finalising all matters related to the 2014 data breach,” it said in a statement.

Meanwhile the Australian Government’s march against encryption continues. Malcolm Turnbull announced last week his government will seek to make social media companies hand over messages related to terrorism – even if encryption must be broken to do so.

“Encryption is vital for information security, but the privacy of a terrorist must never trump the personal security of Australians,” Turnbull said.

The call comes after it’s been revealed more terrorism suspects are using encrypted chat apps, like WhatsApp, to communicate plans. Privacy advocates have naturally resisted the move, suggesting that any “key” to unlock encrypted messages could be used against anyone.

“We want to work with industry to solve this problem … My first priority is to keep Australians safe, and that’s why I’m committed to this long-term challenge,” Turnbull said.

Encryption now affects 90% of priority cases handled by ASIO, the government also said, highlighting the nature of the problem. But Facebook has already spoken out:

“Weakening encrypted systems for [law enforcement] would mean weakening it for everyone,” a spokesman told the ABC.

In other news…

Yet another leak has affected Australians’ personal details, with Bupa saying more than 20,000 customers have had their information revealed. An employee had “inappropriately copied and removed some customer information”, the company said, including names, dates of birth, nationalities and some contact and administrative details.

In Europe, the looming adoption of the new General Data Protection Regulation in 2018 has led to more businesses coming up with tools to help businesses comply. IBM has launched a Consortium for Apache Atlas to help with the new regulations, while Big Blue, Informatica and Veritas have all either introduced new tools or are planning to ramp up activity.


IBM’s chief technology officer for Watson, Bryson Koehler, has said in a new interview that “data is the lifeblood of every business”. He also makes the key point that unless data is actively being searched through and used by employees, it’s effectively useless.

Ready for the blockchain? Alan Kohler at The Australian examines some recent experiments in Australian business to adopt blockchain and machine learning tech, specifically at Telstra and Accenture. While cryptocurrencies may come and go, the underlying tech is now helping power start-ups in a variety of industries.

Catch up – DGA Code Launch & National Press Club address

The new head of Data Governance Australia and former ACCC chair Graeme Samuel, delivered an address to the National Press Club on July 12. Given Samuel’s role in helping define the rules and regulations around data use in Australia, this is one address you shouldn’t miss.

The submission deadline for the consultation of the Draft Code of Practice has been extended to 26 July. Visit the DGA website to have your say on the draft code.

Until next week.

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