back to article AFP officer abused data access to stalk ex

A former officer of the Australian Federal Police's counter-terrorism unit has entered guilty pleas to two charges of stalking using restricted databases. The officer, Roman Eiginson, stood trial for stalking an ex who had left him when he married a Russian woman. As the Canberra Times reports, 53-year-old Eiginson is a former …

  1. dan1980

    There have been the same breaches/misuses/crimes in the Victorian Police and doubtless every other agency with access to similar information. Worldwide.

    The simple fact is that people* just can't be trusted to do the right thing. In society, we make laws that - at least in theory - try to strike a balance between protecting the few people who are idiots (or protecting everyone from the few that are 'bad') while not unnecessarily burdening or inconveniencing all the normal people.

    Unfortunately, in Australia our 'leaders' seem to lean strongly towards the side of law enforcement, enacting laws that affect everyone in order to target a very small group. Like the very strict alcohol laws in Sydney. You can't drink in any public place, you can't buy alcohol after 10pm and bars must shut their doors at 1am and kick everyone out at 3am. Oh, and, we have one of the highest alcohol tax rates in the world of course. (5th or 6th I think.)

    Likewise, we have speed limits of 50kph all over the place and plans to reduce them further still. the M2 went from 100kph to a hotch-potch mixture of 70, 80 and 90kph and, following form, the fines keep getting raised well above CPI.

    That turned into a bit of a rant but the point is that Australia tends to favour the 'nanny-state' situation, cracking down and affecting everyone to try and catch/stop/help 0.1% of people. So why, when there is a risk like this - of our private and very personal data being misused - do we not apply a similar mindset?

    I can't stop in to grab a 6-pack on the way home after a late night at the office because we need to stop the tiny handful of people who want to get viciously drunk at home before heading out for a night of 'alcohol-fuelled violence' but who are also poor planners or don't have much cupboard space and so need to do an emergency run to the bottle-shop for some vodka Cruisers or whatever it is people drink in such situations.

    That's apparently okay, but putting in place simple, prudent safeguards, oversight and restrictions to prevent public servants from abusing our personal data to spy on anyone they want is just too much to countenance and so this huge trove of data that is and will forever be available to even the lowliest police officer represents a colossal risk to the privacy and security of every single man, woman and child in Australia.

    It's fine to inconvenience the entire population to target a small handful of people but apparently far too much to ask to inconvenience a few police officers in order to protect everyone.

    * - I am reminded of a line from Men In Black where Will Smith's character says that "people are smart - they can handle it" to which Tommy Lee Jones's character replies: "A person is smart, people are dumb." Likewise, a person might be trustful but people aren't.

    1. Cpt Blue Bear

      I've just been reading a collected version of Yes, Minister (long flight, other entertainment curtailed, only paperback I was willing to steal from my host) and its quite scary. I opened it at random to a story about Jim Hacker being gamed into supporting a massive database without safe guards. Further random and then systematic reading shows that the plots of this show are still current today. When was this written? Forty years ago? The omnibus edition is dated 1984.

      Plus ca change, as le Frenchies say (or at least they would if they couldn't do little finigally things on their letters)

    2. Gray Ham

      @Dan

      All that you say is very reasonable, and yet ...

      Legislative controls are only going to be as good as the implementation and oversight of controls. In this case, it appears the AFP simply were not aware of their employee's previous and current relations with foreign nationals, multiple citizenships, previous employment with the armed forces of a foreign power, etc, etc. Given that he was previously employed in the counter-terrorism part of the AFP, this appears (to my simple mind) to be a complete failure of the security clearance process, to the point where I am doubtful that he indeed had any sort of clearance, and simply should not have been allowed access to any sort of sensitive data.

      1. dan1980

        @Gray Ham

        ". . . to the point where I am doubtful that he indeed had any sort of clearance, and simply should not have been allowed access to any sort of sensitive data."

        But you see - this is exactly my point!

        The safeguards around these data sets are pretty much non-existent. The problem is that the agencies simply don't respect the privacy of the people; they don't think it's important and certainly not as important as their job. Thus, they don't attach any important to protecting the data and you have a free-for-all.

        What you may not realise is that the meta data collected and stored under the new regime won't be available just to police and related agencies but to everyone who currently has access. You know - critical bodies protecting our children from pedophiles and our borders from attack. Like Ipswitch & Bankstown councils.

        See, what you also may not know is that the current regime not only grants access on the basis of "enforcement of a criminal law"* but also for "enforcement of a law imposing a pecuniary penalty or the protection of the public revenue". I.e. - if you can issue a fine, you've got a claim to our data.

        So the fact that a member of the AFP could access data without difficulty is hardly surprising.

        * - Which covers not only the police but, understandably, agencies like ICAC, the ATO, ASIC, ACCC and customs and also, somewhat less obviously, the RSPCA and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority.

  2. Trigonoceps occipitalis Silver badge

    NOTHING TO HIDE

    You know the rest ...

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