The Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron’s headquarters at Manly.
The Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron’s headquarters at Manly.

Elite exposed: Club’s major privacy breach

Personal details of more than 600 of Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron's oldest members, including millionaire business owners, doctors and barristers, have been made public.

A squadron email included a spreadsheet listing 617 members' full names, dates of birth, home addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and other information that could be used for identity theft.

The spreadsheet, featuring the private information of many of the "top end of town", was accidentally attached to an invitation to events, by a senior squadron staff member.

The prestigious yacht club has admitted it was a breach of members' privacy.

The email was sent at 5.35pm on Tuesday, to members who have been with the squadron for 21, 42 and 50 years, but the error was not discovered until Wednesday morning.

The spreadsheet listed the private details of millionaires and possibly billionaires, a mining magnate, a former State Government minister, hoteliers, barristers, solicitors, senior members of the medical profession and wealthy business owners.

The list also included several members who are recipients of Australian honours, including AM and OAM.

A senior member who was contacted by The Courier-Mail said the publication of his and other members' private details was "a complete outrage".

"You trust these institutions who request your private details to not allow this to happen," the member said.

"I've referred it to my solicitors."

The member said the information that was made public would be enough for someone to use it to illegally apply for a credit card.

The spreadsheet also included squadron membership details.

The staff member who accidentally sent the list, sent another email at 6.46am on Wednesday, asking members to disregard the Excel member list sent the night before, saying it had been "inadvertently and accidentally attached".

Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron at Manly
Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron at Manly

The staff member then sent another series of emails trying to recall the original email and replace it with a member list with only surnames and initials.

In an email to members yesterday afternoon, Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron general manager Shawn Ket said the additional personal contact information of members, including their residential addresses and contact phone numbers, should not have been sent.

"Sending it was a breach of your privacy for which we unreservedly apologise," Mr Ket said in the email.

"We take the privacy of our members very seriously.

"We have now taken action to deal with the breach. The email has been recalled and it should no longer be accessible by you."

Mr Ket said the squadron was upgrading its internal policy, reviewing information technology systems and conducting staff training.

Commodore Barry Cuneo said he was not concerned that his own personal details were revealed in the original email.

"It is being dealt with exactly as it should be," Mr Cuneo said.

Mr Ket said the privacy breach resulted from an honest mistake by a senior staff member, but the squadron took the matter very seriously.

He said the squadron had taken advice from a privacy expert and lawyer that the personal information would be able to be found by a determined searcher.

However the advice was that it was not likely to cause serious harm and therefore it did not need to be reported to the Office of the Information Commissioner.

Mr Ket acknowledged that some members might still be able to see the full spreadsheet, but the squadron had asked them to delete it.

Originally published as Millionaires, barristers exposed: Elite club's major privacy breach