Update: 2 October
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has revealed the number of Australians exposed by the email bungle were nearly twice the figure first thought.
In a statement to Yahoo Finance, a DFAT spokesperson said that 2,727 email addresses had been revealed.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has apologised for the inadvertent disclosure of the email addresses of 2,727 people,” it said.
“No other personal information of any recipient was disclosed.
“The Department takes its privacy obligations and the handling of personal information very seriously.”
DFAT said it had also provided recipients with a contact in case they had any concerns or needed further advice, and also taken steps to review internal processes to ensure the problem would not reoccur.
1 October 2020
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has apologised after it accidentally released the email addresses of more than 1,000 Australians stranded overseas with each other.
The email was originally issued in order to provide details about loan programs available to vulnerable Aussies to assist them financially overseas before they are able to come home.
But the email was sent to 1,021 people, the email addresses of which were all available for each recipient to see, the ABC reported.
After it uncovered the error, DFAT recalled the email and also asked other recipients to delete it.
“We request your assistance in immediately deleting that email from your IT system and refraining from any further forwarding of the email, to protect the privacy of the individuals concerned,” the department said.
It also apologised publicly on Twitter for the error.
We apologise for unintentionally disclosing email addresses of stranded Australians we’re trying to help get home. No other personal information was disclosed. We want to get you home, and are working as hard as we can to do so.
— DFAT🇦🇺 (@dfat) September 30, 2020
Queenslander Melissa Ford, whose partner is currently working in London as a clinician, was a recipient who supplied the email to the ABC and said she felt “incredibly uncomfortable”.
"Everyone that had that email sent to them is already vulnerable and in a desperate situation,” she said.
She expressed fears that it left vulnerable people open to being taken advantage of.
"Anything could happen, fake emails could be sent to people that desperately need the help. It's very disheartening. I don't want my email going out to complete strangers."
"All it takes is for someone to forward it to a friend or have their email hacked. Then all of a sudden there are more than 1,000 people overseas who need help and their email addresses have been leaked."
It had been her first time hearing from DFAT since Ford and her partner registered with the Australian Government.
Cancelled and expensive flights have stopped her from returning home, she said, revealing that she expected the combined cost of flights, and quarantine to reach $10,000.
“It's on our passports that we can enter our home country at our will but the reality is that we can't. We're just stuck here.”
Yahoo Finance has reached out to DFAT for comment.
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