Oops: World Leaders' Personal Data Mistakenly Released

Mar 30, 2015
Originally published on March 31, 2015 1:28 pm

With a single keystroke, the personal information of President Obama and 30 other world leaders was mistakenly released by an official with Australia's immigration office.

Passport numbers, dates of birth and other personal information of the heads of state attending a G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, were inadvertently emailed to one of the organizers of January's Asian Cup football tournament, according to The Guardian. The U.K. newspaper obtained the information as a result of an Australia Freedom of Information request.

Aside from President Obama, leaders whose data were released include Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chinese President Xi Jinping and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The sender forgot to check the auto-fill function in the email "To" field in Microsoft Outlook before hitting send, the BBC reports.

The November 2014 breach was reported less than 10 minutes after the email was sent, according to Australia's ABC News. The sensitive material was immediately deleted by both the sender and the recipient.

The Immigration Department described the incident as an "isolated example of human error" and said the risk of the breach to be "very low," given that information such as addresses was not included.

The Guardian says given that low risk, the immigration officer recommended that the world leaders not be made aware of the breach — a decision that could be at odds with privacy laws in some of the countries. The newspaper says it's not clear whether the immigration department subsequently informed world leaders.

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