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Inquiries launched into department's junk e-mail


June 14, 2002

Investigations have been launched into a Federal Government department's mass mail-out of junk e-mails to young people.

The Privacy Commission has demanded a "please explain" from the Family and Community Services Department about the spam e-mails it sent to users of its youth web site, The Source.

The department is also trying to work out how the e-mail was sent out to promote two competitions during National Youth Week.

The Source is the main portal used by the department to inform young people of its services.

It also includes chat rooms for young people to talk to each other, while it focuses on youth issues.

But an unknown number of people registered to the web site recently received the spam mail promoting the competitions which included a film ticket giveaway.

Departmental guidelines prohibit the use of personal details for spam.

Deputy federal privacy commissioner Timothy Pilgrim said he had started an investigation to determine if the department had breached its own privacy guidelines.

He said all government departments had to be careful in their use of private information. "I strongly urge Federal Government agencies that collect, store and use personal information via web sites . . . ensure they protect the privacy of their users," he said in a statement.

A department spokesman said the department had launched its own investigation to determine how and why the spam e-mail were sent.

He said the department always sought to secure the privacy of its clients, and it was not known how personal details came to be used in the spam.

"Any personal records held by the department are secure."

Labor's information technology spokeswoman Kate Lundy said the spam incident was further proof that the Government had little idea how to handle such issues.

Senator Lundy said instead of taking its own action, the Government was instead leaving the issue to be solved by the Privacy Commission.

By AAP. Copyright © 2002 AAP Information Services Pty Limited (AAP)


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