Call to keep staff off FOI data
The Australian Public Service Commission wants to keep public servants out of documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws.
In its submission to a consultation by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, the agency suggests legislation to reflect the increasing role of technology in requests.
It focused particularly on the Right to Know service, which points users towards pseudonyms.
The advocates say some people are adopting public servants' identities when making FOI requests through the website.
The commission describes the practice as “bullying” and “trolling”.
The Community and Public Sector Union condemns it too.
“The extent of the risk to our members is now greater - both in terms of how easy it is to find them and potentially their families on the internet, and also the scope of uses their information could be put to,” acting national secretary Melissa Donnelly said.
“Our members deserve a safe workplace, and that includes making sure they are safe from identity theft or unwanted contact, like stalking.”
The agency says public servants have been tracked down on social media, leading nefarious actors to a trove of “photographs; friends' and family members' identities and photographs; employment histories; social activities and interests; personal opinions, including political opinions, and so on”.
FOI guidelines allow for the inclusion of public servants’ details in documents except for “special circumstances”.
The commission ays public servants receive unwarranted blame for information that both is and is not released under FOIs.
“In the commission's experience, anonymous and pseudonymous FOI applicants are more likely to use aggressive language and make unsubstantiated allegations in pursuit of speculative theories and agendas,” the agency said.
“For example, statements in the nature of 'the [agency] has acted illegally and improperly' [and] 'Ms X, public servant has engaged in obfuscation ... breached her legal obligations'.
“For Right to Know FOI requests, this discourse is conducted publicly on that website and remains there as a lasting record, personally connecting APS employees with that commentary.