Improper work data base access can lead to dismissal

THE Crime and Corruption Commission has used Privacy Awareness Week to warn public servants who improperly access work databases they can face disciplinary action including possible dismissal.

PRIVACY: Keep personal information under lock and key. Photo: Lisa Simmons

PRIVACY: Keep personal information under lock and key. Photo: Lisa Simmons

CCC chair Alan MacSporran QC said public sector agencies held large amounts of private information about individuals — from contact details to personal health information and information relating to contact with the police and the criminal justice system.

“Pursuing corruption in the public sector relating to the improper access and release of confidential information is a continuing area of focus for the CCC,” Mr MacSporran said.

“For example, a key topic in the issues paper for the Taskforce Flaxton public hearing, currently under way, is the risk of inappropriate access to information, such as computer systems, and disclosure of that information.

Taskforce Flaxton is investigating corruption and corruption risks in Queensland's 14 prisons and work camps.

Mr McSporran is encouraged the number of corruption allegations received by the CCC relating to the misuse of information by public agencies had decreased slightly from nine per cent of total corruption allegations – 644 allegations in the period from 1 July 2016 to 30 April 2017 – to eight per cent or 533 allegations in the period July 1, 2017 to April 30, 2018.

“This data indicates the trend is heading in the right direction, however there is still room for improvement in protecting and managing data held by government agencies.

“Public agencies are obliged under the Information Privacy Act 2009 to ensure personal information is protected against unauthorised access, use, modification or disclosure and in serious cases, unauthorised access to a public database can result in dismissal,” he said.

“I urge all public agencies to ensure that they have frameworks in place to properly protect information and to educate staff on when it is not appropriate to access information,” Mr MacSporran said.

The CCC has a range of resources relating to the protection of confidential and private information available on its website. A corruption prevention advisory, information security and handling provides public sector agencies with practical advice to ensure private and confidential information is secured.

A prevention in focus document, Improper access to public sector databases describes the risks to public agencies and their staff of incidents of improper access to private information which includes a relevant case study.

Privacy Awareness Week, led by the Queensland Office of the Information Commissioner and partnered by the CCC runs from May 14 to 20.

This year’s theme is: Value personal data – it’s worth protecting.