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Major privacy breach sees hundreds of celebrants' addresses published online

A major privacy breach saw hundreds of New Zealand celebrants have their home addresses published online against their wishes and a red-faced government department is now apologising.  

Laptop computer (file picture). Source: istock.com

The privacy breach was only noticed when a marriage celebrant saw their own residential information on the website data.govt.nz. 

Eight hundred and forty-nine celebrants who had asked not to have their address made public had that information published. 

One celebrant told 1 NEWS they were disappointed their home address had been published online. 

"I had chosen to not display my address due to personal circumstances and safety reasons and I feel like that has been compromised.

"It is also concerning that we don't know how long this information was available."

In an email obtained by 1 NEWS to celebrants who had their data published, the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) wrote that it was contacted on Monday this week by the celebrant who noticed their address was on the third-party website. 

"On contacting the third-party website, they advised the celebrant that their address had been sourced from the Department of Internal Affairs," it wrote.

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Lockdown saw dozens of people taking an online course about becoming a celebrant. Source: 1 NEWS

"The marriage celebrant had previously advised the department that their address was not to be published."

"We treat this matter very seriously, with the department deleting the dataset at 1.41pm on 3 August 2020, the same day the error was discovered."

However, it was not until this morning that some celebrants were informed of the data breach. 

In a statement, Department of Internal Affairs' Russell Burnard said they had sent an e-mail to "all of the celebrants to let them know about the issue and apologise".

"We are confident this issue will not arise again and we are continuing to investigate to find out the exact detail of how this occurred."

When asked how long the information had been online for, Mr Burnard said they were still investigating the matter. 

"In this instance, celebrant address information was sent to data.govt.nz inadvertently. We are still investigating the technical details of how this breach occurred," he said. 

Mr Burnard said so far there had been just one complaint on August 3 that "prompted our office to investigate, confirm the breach and respond".

"We focused on removing the information and checking our processes to prevent it from occurring again. We then needed to investigate to understand the extent of the issue and who it impacted. We advised all impacted celebrants this morning."

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Over 300 people have private information exposed in latest Government data breach


Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin told 1 NEWS the data breach was disappointing and said that she was seeking further information from her department about how the breach happened. 

National's data and cyber-security spokesperson Melissa Lee said it was "really concerning when New Zealanders trust the Government with the information they give".

"I think Government really has some serious answers to give to the public. This is a serious concern when private information that people trust the Government with has been released."