06 June 2016
by Adam Gartrell

Liberal Party accused of 'appalling' approach to privacy with misleading website

Privacy campaigners have accused the Liberal Party of an "appalling" sleight of hand for using what looks deceptively like an official government website to harvest people's personal information.

The Australian Privacy Foundation's David Vaile says the website, which spruiks the government's $840 million PaTH to Jobs internship program, appears to be deliberately misleading.

It asks employers and jobseekers to register their interest in the program by submitting their personal details. But it's only in the well-hidden fine print that it makes it clear it is a party website rather than a government one.

The Coalition scheme is designed to encourage under-25s into jobs by giving them a $200-a-fortnight top-up over and above the dole to work 25 hours a week. It is a central plank of the government's jobs and growth agenda but it has drawn heavy fire from the unions, which have described it as a $4-an-hour "worker exploitation scheme".

Mr Vaile says the website may be a political trawling exercise, a "mean and tricky ruse" to get information for political purposes.

​"They have pushed the concept of informed consent to the limit by not revealing anywhere that it is not actually the Turnbull government a reader is dealing with but a party organisation," he said.

"It is an appalling approach to abusing the trust of gullible internet users and getting their personal information by sleight of hand. It gives little confidence that they can be trusted to look after personal information, security, privacy and confidentiality concerns."

Mr Vaile says the information collected can be stolen by a "motivated intruder", putting people at risk of identity theft.

The ACTU says the website is another strike against the program.

"Not only does the government want to exploit young workers, now we're seeing an attack on their privacy as well, with their details being funnelled into a Liberal Party campaign database," ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said. "This Liberal Party website is ill-thought through, cobbled together and of dubious legitimacy, just like the PaTH scheme itself."

The Coalition has refused to answer questions about the website, simply referring Fairfax Media to the website's privacy policy, which reads: "Information is being collected by the Liberal Party because it is caretaker and no government agency can do so."

Once the election caretaker period is over, the party will provide the information to the Department of Employment, the policy says.

"The information collected will not be used for any other purpose," it says.

But Mr Vaile, who is also executive director of the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre at the University of NSW, says this privacy policy is "deeply deficient".

"I've never seen anything like that. It makes the very unconvincing claim that somehow the caretaker conventions both require and permit them to collect this information."