NZ firearm owner information breach

Just one month after its launch, New Zealand’s new Firearms Safety Authority has leaked private details of firearm owners.

Human error has been blamed for the incident that has jeopardised the safety of law-abiding licensed firearm owners and the wider public, should details ever reach the wrong hands. This breach leaked the email addresses, via an email sent by authority staff to more than 100 firearm owners in the carbon copy (cc) rather than blind carbon copy (bcc) address field, in an effort to notify them their address details needed updating. It also follows the theft of old firearms files from a disused Auckland police station last year that contained the names and addresses of thousands of licensed firearm owners.

It is this exact scenario that the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia (SSAA National) has raised as a concern during the public submission process to the Attorney-General’s Department about the National Firearms Register concept.

The existing firearms registries in Australia’s states and territories are rife with errors, which are inevitable during data entry. There is also a lack of consistency in data uploading of firearms that has been further exacerbated by human entry. Over the years there have been numerous breaches of these registries where the details of firearm owners have been made public, often with human error to blame. The potential for this to occur on a larger scale is very real when you consider the details of one million firearm owners could be accessed from one central point.

The consultation process for the Register questioned whether trusted non-government entities should be able to access registries for reasons such as verification of permits. However, we are mindful that the more people altering Register entries equates to greater potential for errors and in turn, an increased potential for misuse and possible privacy breaches.

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