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SA Liberal data harvesting ‘inadvertent’

Data harvested through hyperlinks in media releases and on government websites used by the previous South Australian Liberal government was muddled and of little use, the state ombudsman has ruled.

Wayne Lines looked at the use of links by the Liberals that redirected web users through a domain used by political parties around the world to collect data for campaign purposes.

Mr Lines said it appeared the practice had been inadvertently carried over when the former government was elected in 2018 and ceased in March 2021.

As well as the hyperlinks being used in media releases, employees of a range of agencies had cut and pasted them onto agency resources without understanding the potential implications.

The ombudsman engaged an expert in cyber security, privacy and the protection of government data to provide advice after studying the functions of several of the hyperlinks in question.

Mr Lines said that advice found the data was effectively “muddled” and most likely could not be used in any meaningful way.

“In all of the circumstances, particularly noting the expert advice that it does not appear data was produced in any meaningful form, I determined, in my discretion, that it is not in the public interest to take further action in relation to the matter,” the ombudsman said in a statement on Monday.

“Even so, the use of stateliberalleader.nationbuilder.com for the management of media distribution lists by the former government as a carryover from being in opposition is regrettable and created the perception of public information being used for party-political purposes.”

Mr Lines said he had released details of his inquiries to remind all political parties of the importance of government resources not being used, or having the appearance of being used, for party-political purposes.

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