Canadian Provincial Government Admits Patient Records Leaked Online
November 28, 2007
Medical information on some patients in Canada, including test results for hepatitis and HIV, was accidentally leaked to the Internet last Tuesday, Newfoundland and Labrador officials said.
A Health Department consultant took home a computer containing the data, and the information was vulnerable when the consultant failed to close a file-sharing program. A government investigation found 1,420 files were available over the Internet for 8-10 hours, and 375 were accessed by someone.
"We don't know how often they were accessed or by whom," said Jerome Kennedy, the province's justice minister.
Provincial authorities believe 49 patients could have had personal information accessed, such as names, health insurance numbers, health providers, and test results. Two of the 49 patients are deceased, and the province said it will contact 35 of the patients involved, having determined that "their medical privacy has been breached," Kennedy said.
The New York-based security firm Tony Josephs and Sons Investigations caught the data leak, said Kennedy. The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has investigated the company and cleared it of committing any crime.
"For me, the major thing that has gone wrong is that an individual, whether a consultant or not, was able to take home very sensitive material on a computer and use that material in an unsecured way," said Lorraine Michael, the New Democratic Party leader, who called for an investigation. "To me, it begs the question: Who monitors what is happening?"
Health Minister Ross Wiseman declined to comment.