Millions of Canadians Affected by Health Privacy Breach

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Margaret MacDiarmid, British Columbia's minister of health, recently acknowledged that the personal health information of over 5 million Canadians was accessed without authorization between October 2010 and June 2012.

"The information was used by researchers for research only, MacDiarmid said, however regarding the most serious alleged privacy breach, letters will be sent out to 38,000 individuals this week," writes The Times Colonist's Cindy E. Harnett. "'The ministry has confirmed that there have been three instances of health data that has been inappropriately accessed and the public needs to be aware of these,' MacDiarmid said, in a press conference."

"In the most serious case, in June 2012, the personal health numbers, gender, dates of birth and postal codes of 38,486 people was shared with an individual, said MacDiarmid," writes The Canadian Press' Keven Drews. "Also included was data from Statistics Canada's Canadian Community Health Survey, including information on the mental, physical and sexual health of individuals, as well as their lifestyles and the use of health services."

"The data in these three instances did not contain individual names, social insurance numbers or personal financial information, Ms. MacDiarmid stressed, noting it would be 'very difficult to match someone's personal health number to their identity based on the information that was available,'" writes The Globe and Mail's Andrea Woo.

"MacDiarmid said ministry officials, in consultation with B.C.'s Information and Privacy Commissioner, deemed that personal letters would not be necessary for those two cases," writes The Vancouver Sun's Jonathan Fowlie. "Seven employees were terminated as part of the investigation, and so far MacDiarmid has only been able to make vague allegations about the misuse of confidential medical information. One of the employees, Harold MacIsaac, was found dead of an apparent suicide last week."

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