Privacy breach shows names and addresses of military personnel's families

Publicly available documents filed in court by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, obtained from the Department of National Defence, show personal details from two dozen military personnel.

'That sort of information can be readily used by somebody who wants to commit fraud,' says privacy lawyer

The Department of National Defence issued a statement in response to the breach, saying it takes privacy matters seriously. (CBC)

A privacy breach has revealed the personal information of dozens of Canadian military members, including names, ranks, service numbers, home addresses and home phone numbers, as well as names of spouses and children.

The documents are freely available to anyone who requests the file at the Federal Court.

The information was contained within documents disclosed by the Department of National Defence to the Canadian Human Rights Commission as part of an unrelated complaint filed by a former navy officer named Paul Ritchie.

The commission's copy of the documents, filed at the Federal Court, contained home addresses and names of family members of more than 30 military members.

Information should have been redacted, says lawyer

An additional 30 members had their full names and service numbers listed and about 100 had their last names and service numbers disclosed.

While it's normal for the Canadian Human Rights Commission to contact third parties or federal departments to request information, privacy experts say any personal information that is not relevant to the case should have been redacted or removed.

"That sort of information can be readily used by somebody who wants to commit fraud," said David Fraser, a privacy lawyer with McInnes Cooper in Halifax.

Breach concerning, military or not

He said military status or not, having this type of information in the public realm is concerning.

"Children's names are on that list and the address at which they live," Fraser said. "You can infer from those addresses what schools they go to. You can just imagine someone could impersonate one of the parents at the school."

Fraser added he didn't want to "catastrophize" the situation.

"But certainly, if my information like that ended up in a court file without my permission being sought, I would actually be furious," he said.

CBC News spoke with several military members whose information was disclosed. They said they were concerned about the breach, but did not want to comment because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

'Looking at it closely'

The Department of National Defence issued a statement in response to the breach, saying it takes privacy matters seriously.

"We cannot confirm the veracity of claims that protected information might have been inappropriately released," the statement said.

"We are seized by this issue and are looking at it closely."

Several past breaches

This latest privacy breach is one of a handful so far this year. 

In January, a hard drive was found at a security depot that contained 10 GB of data, including photos, names of military personnel and family details.

Along with several other security violations, a crew member of HMCS Charlottetown was investigated for allegedly storing classified information on his personal network.

This latest breach differs slightly from previous ones, since the information is available to the public via the court.

About the Author

Brett Ruskin

Reporter/Videojournalist

Brett Ruskin is a reporter and videojournalist covering everything from local breaking news to national issues. He's based in Halifax.