The firefighters' union says the ACT government should refer the release of a spreadsheet with detail from nearly 30,000 workers' compensation claims to the Australian information commissioner and notify the people affected by the breach.
United Firefighters Union ACT branch secretary Greg McConville said it seemed there had been a gross breach of the duty of care because sensitive information had been released with the potential for a high impact to individuals, including 691 firefighters.
"They will be subject to this data breach and arguably their personal health information has been disclosed as a result of this data breach, and the result is that will likely lead to at least anxiety if not a recurrence of their symptoms," Mr McConville said.
Mr McConville said the information contained in the spreadsheet would make it easy to identify people who had received a compensation payout.
"There is stigma associated with workers' compensation. That stigma has been promoted by opponents of the system to delegitimise workers' compensation claims and in particular stress claims. It is a live factor that that stigma presents a deterrent to current firefighters pursuing workers' compensation claims," he said.
The Community and Public Sector Union's ACT regional secretary, Maddy Northam, said the data breach was exceedingly troubling and it had the potential to have a large impact on workers for years to come.
"It is absolutely astonishing and concerning that workers' private data has been publicly available for three years before the government was even aware of it. The data that has been available is of a highly personal nature, and it has been troubling for our members who have had a claim," Ms Northam said.
Ms Northam said the union's members were blindsided by the breach and were not notified before the report appeared in The Canberra Times on Thursday.
The union was due to be briefed by the ACT government on Thursday afternoon. "We will be letting the government know just how furious our members are and will be seeking real answers," Ms Northam said.
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Special Minister of State Chris Steel on Thursday told the Legislative Assembly the government was not yet aware of a particular breach of private information, but the privacy officer within the Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development directorate would review the incident.
"We look forward to that review being undertaken and any recommendations that may come out of that review about whether there has in fact been a breach of privacy in this particular case and whether there are any further measures we can put in place to protect the privacy of individuals in procurements going forward," Mr Steel said.
There is no timeframe for the review and the government would not commit to releasing its findings in advance.
A spreadsheet containing the details of thousands of workers' compensation claims between 1989 and 2018 was uploaded to the territory government's tender site in 2018.
While the names and birthdates of workers were removed in an effort to de-identify the data, it contains intimate details of their claims, including the injury date and type, location on the body and compensation received.
The spreadsheet, which covers the period since self-government, also included the person's birth year and gender as well as occupation details, including the directorate they were employed in and their job title.
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