Last month, the telecommunications giant announced that its customers’ names, dates of birth, phone numbers, email addresses and in some cases sensitive document information including driver licence, Medicare details or passport numbers had been exposed in a data breach.
In what is an important test of Australia’s privacy laws, Maurice Blackburn has lodged a formal complaint with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, which has the power to order Optus to pay compensation to affected customers.
Macquarie University academic Sean Foley is the representative complainant, one of millions of Australians who had their data breached. Dr Foley was informed by Optus last month that his personal details including sensitive documents had been exposed in the breach, despite him ceasing to be a customer in 2017.
Under the Privacy Act, corporations must take reasonable steps to protect personal information they hold from misuse, interference and unauthorised access. Those who fail to do so can face penalties including fines and be ordered to pay compensation.
The representative complaint alleges Optus failed to protect the personal information of its customers and ensure the destruction of information that it no longer needed.
Maurice Blackburn Principal Vavaa Mawuli said privacy breaches are a growing problem as companies become increasingly entrusted with personal information.
“When people are required to share personal information in order to receive important services, they expect that data to be held securely and not in a manner which may expose them to risks of identity theft. We have commenced this complaint today to seek compensation and hold Optus to account for this catastrophic data breach”.
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