Data Commissioner says no grounds to investigate OPM over Ombudsman privacy concerns

The Data Commissioner has said that there are no grounds to investigate allegations of data breaches by the Office of the Prime Minister as highlighted by the recent report by the Ombudsman.

Responding to questions from the Times of Malta, the body responsible for protecting personal data in Malta said they would not proceed with an investigation, despite a complaint by the Ombudsman.

The news comes in response to the publication of the Ombudsman’s Annual Report 2018 in which the body touches on their reactions to the Government’s actions in response to their 2017 Annual Report.

Case details in Governance Report posed a risk to people’s privacy – Ombudsman

The ‘Governance’ Report, according to the Ombudsman, included a lot of references to case details that did not conform with how the Ombudsman treats its data.

They state that the details although short of naming, locating of being able to identify complaintants, did demonstrate a potential for others to uncover them.

This consisted of, ‘data of a personal nature and information on the nature of the complaint and progress made in the investigation. In some cases it even provided information on action taken by the department when asked to react to the complaint and responses by the Office of the Ombudsman. Reserved information that the Investigating Officers sometimes felt it was not appropriate to give to complainants during the course of the investigation.’

At the same time, the Ombudsman explains that the creators of the ‘Governance’ report had not provided, ‘advance notice of the information that was to be published,’ and what was divulged, ‘goes beyond the information his Office had volunteered to give at OPM’s request.’

They instead highlight that a small amount of information was provided to OPM in order to keep them informed of what the Ombudsman was investigating and their progress on specific cases.

While quashing the Ombudsman’s comments, the Principal Permanent Secretary hit back at their report stating that, ‘If the Ombudsman opined that the public service breached confidentiality criteria, the same can be said about the Ombudsman’s case notes publications.’

On the cases specifically, it states that, ‘The public service’s governance publications replicated the precautions to anonymise the subjects in the same manner as the Ombudsman’s case notes.’

More from the Ombudsman Report 2018:

Ombudsman Report: Cases increase by 6% in 2018

‘Unacceptable that govt bodies still failing to answer citizen queries’ – Environment Commissioner

B’kara residents sent most complaints to Ombudsman in last two years – report