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International News

Canada: British Columbia Government Launches Probe Into Auctioned Private Health Records

March 6, 2006

In British Columbia, computer tapes sold recently at a government auction contained 77,000 personal medical records, including sensitive information about HIV status, substance abuse history and mental illness. When the buyer, who wishes to remain anonymous, found the tapes contained the data, he delivered them to the Vancouver Sun, which has secured the tapes. The auction was overseen by the provincial Labor Ministry, which is investigating how privacy protocols were broken.

"I take this very seriously," B.C. Labor Minister Mike de Jong told the Canadian Press. "The release of this very sensitive private information is completely inappropriate and completely unacceptable." While there are detailed rules governing the security and disposal of records, de Jong said, "It appears obvious that at some point along the way they weren't followed. If those guidelines are not sufficient, they will be changed."

A technology expert with the Sun said the government apparently made no effort to erase or destroy the tapes' data, making them easily accessible.

The release of patient information should never have occurred, and it brings up issues of human dignity, said Mary Carlson, director of the Office of Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia. Her office is assisting de Jong with the investigation. "They're going to find it out quickly," said de Jong. "What I want to know is why it happened and how it happened."

Back to other news for March 6, 2006

Adapted from:
The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario)
03.06.06; Canadian Press

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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