Google called in to scrub politicians' numbers from the internet

Internet behemoth Google has been called in to scrub federal politicians' private mobile numbers from the internet after a bumbling government department published them on its website.

The Department of Parliamentary Services took down the offending pages from the Parliament House website on Monday after being alerted by Fairfax Media to the privacy and security breach.

But the department quickly found the numbers were still accessible through a backdoor known as Google cache, so it scrambled to enlist the US-based company's help to purge the information.

"Following representations by the Department of Parliamentary Services to Google, Google has now deleted cached documents from their network," a departmental spokeswoman confirmed on Tuesday.

"The department has publicly acknowledged and promptly responded to the issue when it was identified and is working with our stakeholders towards rectifying the problem and ensuring it does not happen again."

Parliamentarians are angry over the breach, with a number complaining to Speaker Tony Smith and Senate President Stephen Parry, who as presiding officers jointly oversee the department.

A number have also sought advice from the department about whether they should change their phone numbers.

Nearly all federal politicians - from cabinet ministers down - had their numbers exposed in the bungle, which the department has blamed on a contractor called TELCO Management.

The numbers were contained in PDF documents that report what politicians are charging taxpayers for their phones.

While in previous years the numbers were taken out of the documents altogether, this time it appears the font was merely turned white - meaning they could still be accessed using copy and paste.


The numbers - for all MPs who served between January and June last year, before the July election - were easily and publicly accessible on the website for more than three months.

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The story Google called in to scrub politicians' numbers from the internet first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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