A security fence at the new Tweed Valley Hospital site at Cudgen.
A security fence at the new Tweed Valley Hospital site at Cudgen. Scott Powick

Fury over privacy 'breach'

FURIOUS Tweed Valley Hospital site protesters say their privacy has been breached after a State Government body allegedly published their personal details online without permission.

Relocate Tweed Valley Hospital leader Hayley Paddon said anyone who made an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) submission for the Tweed Valley Hospital had their private details, including address, e-mail and IP address, disclosed on the Department of Planning and Environment website.

She said this was despite a promise on the submission form that stated "no more than an individual's name and suburb” would be published.

More than 1000 submissions were made on the EIS to the Department and are now available for viewing on the NSW Major Projects website.

The personal details of those who made submissions are listed online, while those who requested otherwise have had their details blacked out.

Mrs Paddon said she had spoken to Department officials "who have bluntly declined to take any action”.

"Their website makes full contact details mandatory but clearly promises that only their name and suburb will ever be published (unless the submission body text includes other contact information.),” she said.

"They did the opposite. This is just one more betrayal of trust by a government more interested in discouraging people's confidence in participation than fostering it.”

Mrs Paddon, who was a victim of identity theft last year, said the alleged breach of her IP address was "the last thing” she needed.

State Labor candidate for Tweed Craig Elliot also chimed in, claiming the "massive data breach” was a failure by Tweed MP Geoff Provest, who needed to "explain why his government had "compromised so many locals by publishing their personal private details on the internet”.

But according to the Department of Planning and Environment's privacy policy, which was available on the EIS submission form, those who made a submission would have their full personal details published online unless requested otherwise.

"When you make a submission we will publish the content of your submissions and any attachments including any personal information which you have chosen to include in those documents,” the policy states.

"If you wish to maintain your privacy in this submission process, you must request your name be withheld by ticking the relevant box in the form below, and not include any of your personal information in your submission or attachments.”

Support Tweed Valley Hospital spokesperson Dot Holdom said the alleged privacy breach was simply a lack of reading the fine print.

"Anybody who was concerned about their privacy needed to ensure they tick the box and disclose in their submission that their name and details be withheld,” she said.

"It did say they would use any personal information and gave them the opportunity to opt out."

A Department of Planning and Environment spokesperson said the department had "followed its normal privacy policy in receiving and publishing submissions on the Tweed Valley Hospital application”.

"In order for a person to make a submission, they must acknowledge that they've read the terms of the Department's privacy statement,” they said.

"As stated on the submission form, any person who wants their personal information withheld, needs to tick the relevant box.

"Should a submitter now wish their information to be kept confidential, the Department can update their submission details.”

Some details have since been removed from the site.