The personal details of world leaders at the last G20 summit were accidentally disclosed by the Australian immigration department, which did not consider it necessary to inform those world leaders of the privacy breach.
The Guardian can reveal an employee of the agency inadvertently sent the passport numbers, visa details and other personal identifiers of all world leaders attending the summit to the organisers of the Asian Cup football tournament.
The United States president, Barack Obama, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, and the British prime minister, David Cameron, were among those who attended the Brisbane summit in November and whose details were exposed.
The Australian privacy commissioner was contacted by the director of the visa services division of Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection to inform them of the data breach on 7 November 2014 and seek urgent advice.
In an email sent to the commissioner’s office, obtained under Australia’s freedom of information laws, the breach is attributed to an employee who mistakenly emailed a member of the local organising committee of the Asian Cup – held in Australia in January – with the personal information.
“The personal information which has been breached is the name, date of birth, title, position nationality, passport number, visa grant number and visa subclass held relating to 31 international leaders (ie prime ministers, presidents and their equivalents) attending the G20 leaders summit,” the officer wrote.
“The cause of the breach was human error. [Redacted] failed to check that the autofill function in Microsoft Outlook had entered the correct person’s details into the email ‘To’ field. This led to the email being sent to the wrong person.
“The matter was brought to my attention directly by [redacted] immediately after receiving an email from [the recipient] informing them that they had sent the email to the wrong person.
“The risk remains only to the extent of human error, but there was nothing systemic or institutional about the breach.”