Victoria Police needs to improve the way it manages personal information it holds about Victorians to make sure it is not misused or falls into the wrong hands, according to a report released today by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC).
IBAC's report, Unauthorised access and disclosure of information held by Victoria Police, analyses corruption risks in how Victoria Police handles official information and law enforcement data, including personal information it holds about Victorians. The report says misuse of information by police officers may constitute or enable corrupt conduct.
"Victoria Police relies on community trust and information from the public to perform its role. When information isn't handled properly, particularly personal and sensitive information collected for law enforcement purposes, that trust is undermined," IBAC Deputy Commissioner Katie Miller said.
The report warns that unauthorised access and disclosure of personal and sensitive information by police can lead to serious consequences for people and organisations, such as investigations being compromised, the safety of victims or witnesses being put at risk, and exploitation of information by organised crime groups for criminal purposes.
"When information held by Victoria Police is accessed and disclosed without authorisation it can compromise people's privacy and safety. The community needs to be confident Victoria Police is securing information effectively and only accessing it for legitimate purposes," Deputy Commissioner Miller said.
IBAC is responsible for preventing, exposing and investigating police misconduct and corruption in Victoria. It plays a vital role in building community confidence by providing independent oversight of police operations. IBAC's work includes research and education, both of which can help prevent police misconduct and corruption.
Deputy Commissioner Miller said this research work was undertaken to help Victoria Police identify opportunities to improve their systems, processes and controls around information handling. The report outlines a number of ways Victoria Police can better prevent and detect misuse and unauthorised disclosures, including: increased targeted and sustained auditing of police information and data systems, and enhanced education coupled with ongoing training for police employees.
"The report notes increased use of technology has made it easier for Victoria Police employees to inappropriately use personal portable devices and mobile phones to copy or save data to share with others, including on social media,"
"Unauthorised access and disclosure of information is frequently identified in corruption investigations by IBAC and other agencies. IBAC intelligence suggests information misuse is underreported in Victoria Police and across the entire public sector. Raising awareness among Victoria Police employees and the community about the risks of information misuse, along with how it can enable and be corrupt conduct will allow for greater prevention, detection and reporting of incidents," Deputy Commissioner Miller said.
This is the first in a series of three IBAC reports looking at common information misuse risks and their drivers across Victoria Police, and state and local government.