Is your data safe with the ATO? Senate hearing reveals all

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Yesterday a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra heard from senior tax office officials that up to 30 Australian Tax Office (ATO)  staff had accessed taxpayers’ private data (including celebrities) without authority.

While Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan assured the senators in the hearing that the ATO took this matter very seriously, it was revealed that only 12 of the offenders were fired, with the other 18 facing lesser penalties.

These revelations come just two weeks after the ATO Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston came under investigation for his possible involvement in his son’s alleged $165 million tax fraud scam.

“We are keenly aware that the community must have full trust in us – in our integrity, objectivity and expertise – we cannot do our job effectively without this,” Mr Jordan said.

“When confidence in us is jeopardised, it can impact negatively on taxpayers and the tax system, and I will do everything in my power to eliminate the risk of that happening.”

Do you feel safe knowing that poor procedures and practices allowed 30 tax office officials to access taxpayers’ private data without the correct authority?

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Written by Drew

Starting out as a week of work experience in 2005 while studying his Bachelor of Business at Swinburne University, Drew has never left his post and has been with the company ever since, working on the websites digital needs. Drew has a passion for all things technology which is only rivalled for his love of all things sport (watching, not playing).
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26 Comments

Total Comments: 26
  1. 0
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    My concern is that if they can access it, can they change it to give very false information that we then have to answer for? What the protections in place against that?

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      My fears are more of the nature that workers in third world Call Centres may sell your personal data. That means you are in danger of indentity fraud and that is not a minor issue.
      The third world has few ethics and the above should keep us all awake at night. This is going to happen at some time and then the poo is really going to hit the fan. Welcome to the information age.

  2. 0
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    Your data is not safe ANYWHERE. That is why I am fighting a losing battle to not offer it up. Unfortunately even two bit websites these days demand DOB and a heap of other information before you can sign up. Of course you can offer bogus information but you have to write this down or risk being locked out in the future. I had this happen with Facebook as well as Airbnb. Not pretty.
    In the end ordinary people cannot protect themselves from those with the technical skills to get at your private information. That opens you up to identity fraud. Welcome to the age of enlightenment.

    • 0
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      Mick, I had an argument with an insurance company about being asked to provide a date of birth before they would answer a question, it is not necessary and they finally agreed that it was only necessary to provide information that could be checked to make sure of identity – that included the home address but the DoB wasn’t really necessary.

    • 0
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      Been there many times. It normally requires a response/argument about the information is not account related. I am not sure if this behaviour is management driven or simply the result of employing morons. It is however galling when private and sensitive information is demanded for no good reason.

    • 0
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      It has to be moronic MICK when every single one of them uses the exact same identification that Facebook announces blithely once a year anyway.

      Bit like Qantas. They have a new trial in domestic now of self service check in and baggage drop with absolutely no identification required. Too hard for the programmers I suspect. Expect something very bad sometime soon. Anyone can just book a flight and declare they are Now Blow and board a plane interstate.

      Don’t suppose the machine gives a rat’s.

    • 0
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      That was book a flight and process the boarding pass without any need to identify themselves at all.

    • 0
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      Did not use the service last year Rae. I normally check in online, rock up to the counter and they print the necessary information and tickets for me. I don’t think you can avoid the check-in counter no matter what you do but not sure as I do what I do.

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      I once sold a car completed all the necessary paperwork and I cancelled my car insurance of course. The person who bought it from me arranged to have the car insured through his insurance company. His insurance company wanted to know my name, DOB and the name of my insurance company. I spoke to the agent of the buyer and questioned them why as the seller they needed to know these details. They gave some spurious reason and I refused to give them any information.

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      You can now avoid the check in counter flying out of Qantas Domestic. You just pump your booking number into the machine and out comes your boarding pass and luggage label.There is another machine you use to collect your luggage receipt as you drop your bag off. No people needed.

  3. 0
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    I cannot think of any reason for employees of the ATO to access our information unless it is part of their job at tax time.
    I agree with Ted Wards comment and the fear that these employees can change our information to suit current gov’t regulations.
    The world is becoming scarier for older folk as time goes by.

  4. 0
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    N0 current compute system is safe. Some have better locks and keys but all are fundamentally flawed.
    Breaking News from Comp.risks: Since 20012 every INTEL CPU had secretly added an inbuilt independent sub computer (backdoor) to remotely monitor your computer.
    No mater what operating system you and the government use. Any one Goodies or baddies with the key to unlock the backdoor can scan and modify the computer data.
    For this appalling state of affairs blame the USA three letter agency starting with N.
    Yet every USA president has failed to act to protect your privacy, so very strange.

  5. 0
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    Agreed! NO information that you give anyone is completely “secure”. The so-called “Privacy”
    laws and agreements we all sign up to are only “outs ” for organizations so they can share info . for “company” or “certain” uses. Nothing to do with your privacy.
    If there is something you don’t want known don’t put it anywhere on the web. And we won’t even start on hackers getting your data. The ATO people involved should be severely dealt with.

  6. 0
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    I don’t disagree that it is a concern that ATO employees are accessing private details.
    We can’t prevent this from happening but we can be proactive in making sure our information hasn’t been changed as some of you have indicated is a concern. Log into your MyGov account (most people would have this set up, I think) to check your details on a regular basis, kind of like checking your bank transactions online regularly to make sure there is no unauthorised activity on your accounts.

  7. 0
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    There are over 20,000 people employed by the ATO. If only 30 have had a sticky beak it seems a minor issue. However, it is what they have done with the information they have accessed that is the real concern.

    • 0
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      They caught/identified 30 people but like an iceberg there could be many more hidden out of sight. Depending on the skill of the person using the system they could disguise their meddling.

  8. 0
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    As more and more companies use overseas call centres all our private information is at risk how could it be any other way.

  9. 0
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    Data is not ‘safe’ anywhere and to think it is, is just naive in this day and age.

  10. 0
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    No computerised system is safe. All can be hacked, corrupted or wiped out. Look at the recent highjacking of computer data and the BA breakdown. People only fool themselves if they think a computer system can be made safe.

    Yes MICK identity theft is a real threat with the off shoring of more and more of our essential services. There can be no protection and I doubt the likes of Telstra or the Insurance groups give a damn anyway. They just want our money.

    • 0
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      We have only been spared but the day is coming when our personal data is on the web. Bet on that. Perhaps that is why other ID systems are close to being implemented: iris and fingerprint scans. The US Border Protection already requires these and likely the quick exits at Sydney Airport does an iris scan as well.
      George Orwell’s novel is becoming reality methinks. Not happy Jan. Maybe I’ll move to Tassie and become a hermit. Ant suggestions posters?

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