Posted September 08, 2020 17:01:38A group of computer scientists has revealed that the FBI secretly obtained and shared the identities and financial details of millions of Australians who used online gambling sites, with the FBI even giving the online casino operators the names of the Australian residents.
The revelations are contained in a confidential document obtained by the Guardian and published by The Australian Financial Review.
The revelation is a blow to the federal government, which has been trying to reassure the public that its online gambling laws are in the best interests of Australians.
But it also raises the possibility that the Australian Federal Police (AFP) was actively targeting gambling sites that had not been under criminal investigation.
The document was obtained under the Official Information Act, which allows the AFP to keep secret information that is relevant to an ongoing investigation.
Its existence has raised concerns that the AFP has breached a law that requires agencies to disclose information that might cause serious damage to national security.
But in a statement, the AFP said it had “no plans to release this information” in a way that could compromise the security of its operations.
“This information is in confidence,” the statement said.
“The AFP is a public institution and has a duty to inform the public about its activities.”
It is understood the AFP was able to obtain the identity of Australian users of the online gambling platform, Playbet, after the companies had not received criminal charges against them.
But the AFP would not give any details about the FBI’s request for the information.
The AFP did not respond to a request for comment.
The information about the online casinos and their Australian residents was obtained by investigators who were targeting the gambling industry and its operators for alleged fraud.
The document said the FBI was able “solely for legal reasons” to obtain and share the names and information of Australians using Playbet accounts in the US, Canada and the UK.
It said the information was obtained through “an international investigation, targeting Playbet”, and the FBI used a combination of “technological, human and organisational means”.
The AFP declined to say whether the Australian online gambling operators or the online gaming companies were targeted by the FBI.
The Australian Federal police has been criticised by gambling groups and some privacy experts for its lack of transparency about its investigations.