By Roxanne Jeynes
Edited for online by Tom Sharman
The Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services is under scrutiny this week, after an auditor-general’s report found continuous breaches surrounding the security of child safety information.
The report shows a lack of adequate security guidelines and time effectiveness surrounding information sharing between other departments and non-governmental organisations.
Of a main concern is the department’s use of email to send and receive information on children who have been harmed or are at risk of being harmed.
The report also found internal management issues, revealing staff are extracting secure information from departmental systems on spreadsheets and databases and even downloading information onto mobile and memory devices.
Child Safety Minister Shannon Fentiman says the government takes information security incredibly seriously and agrees with the report’s recommendations and is working towards implementing better guidelines.
Queensland Council of Civil Liberties president Michael Cope is criticizing the government for not putting into place appropriate control and guidelines for the services they supply the confidential information to.
Mr Cope says although the Council welcomes the government’s steps toward rectifying the issue, the report is clearly disturbing.
“It is alarming that the government cannot set up a computer system which enables it to share important information, but keep it confidential,” Mr Cope said.
“It could be alarming that its members of staff in order to work have to take the information outside the secure system.”
Mr Cope says there needs to be an independent investigation into the allegations of privacy breaches within and outside the Department.
“We would be calling on the privacy commissioner, to look into this issue to see whether there have been any breaches of privacy,” he said.
“And contact any person who has had their privacy breached.”
Cara House for resilience and recovery spokesperson Eleanor Britz says she stresses the importance of ensuring sensitive children’s information is handled appropriately by government and non-government bodies.
“Children’s information needs to be so delicately handled especially when they are of a sensitive nature of child protection or information about children with disabilities,” Ms Britz said.
She says a higher standard is needed for these bodies dealing with such confidential information.
“We would be really encouraging of people to be very mindful about respect and treating people with integrity,” she said.