Nova Scotia

N.S. government reveals May privacy breach involved 10,599 unredacted decisions

The Nova Scotia government has now disclosed the number of unredacted decisions posted online in a May privacy breach by the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal totalled 10,599. The decisions contained names and highly-personal information.

Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal breach saw 555 decisions accessed

The May privacy breach saw 10,599 unredacted Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal decisions posted online that contained highly-sensitive information, including employer names, as well as employee names and their medical and psychiatric information. (PabloLagarto/Shutterstock)

The Nova Scotia government has now disclosed the number of unredacted decisions posted online in a May privacy breach by the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal totalled 10,599.

The decisions contained highly-sensitive information, including employer names, as well as employee names and their medical and psychiatric information. Until now, the government has said little about the error other than it was following the province's privacy breach protocol, which includes conducting a thorough investigation.

A notice posted on the appeals tribunal website on June 23 said the unredacted decisions were issued between 1996 and 2009. It said the decisions were posted on May 7-8 and removed on May 12.

The statement said 555 decisions were accessed.

The 10,599 documents were removed from the site shortly after CBC News was made aware of them and subsequently alerted the government.

One 2002 decision disclosed details of a man who was injured on the job. It outlined his mental health struggles, including post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms such as nightmares and flashbacks.

Another 1999 decision included a discussion of a worker's sexual abuse at a very young age.

"We take this seriously and are working to determine what happened. Maintaining privacy and confidentiality are of utmost importance to us," the statement said.

Even though provincial law does not require it, the tribunal said it is contacting those whose privacy was violated.

When the privacy breach became public, Larry Maloney, vice-president of the Pictou County Injured Workers Association, encouraged all injured workers who participated in tribunal appeals between 1998 and 2009 to contact the government and ask if their personal information had been posted online. At that time, no one knew the decisions dated back to 1996.

How to file a complaint

The tribunal has not disclosed how the breach happened, saying it is still investigating. Anyone concerned about the disclosure of personal information is asked to call 902-424-2250.

It is asking anyone who downloaded the unredacted decisions to destroy them.

The Nova Scotia privacy commissioner's office said they will open a file if they receive a complaint from an affected individual.

"We have not opened an investigation, but we are continuing to monitor their investigation and offer ourselves as a resource," Carmen Stuart, director of investigations and chief privacy officer, said in an email to CBC.

MORE TOP STORIES

About the Author

Yvonne Colbert

Consumer Watchdog

Yvonne Colbert has been a journalist for nearly 35 years, covering everything from human interest stories to the provincial legislature. These days she helps consumers navigate an increasingly complex marketplace and avoid getting ripped off. She invites story ideas at yvonne.colbert@cbc.ca

now