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Alberta ministry contacting clients after personal information “unaccountable” for 24 hours


November 21, 2016   by Canadian Underwriter


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Alberta Human Services (AHS) said on Friday that it is contacting 86 Alberta Supports clients whose personal information was unaccountable for a 24-hour period.

USB flash storage metal key on KeyboardAHS said in a press release on Friday that as part of service delivery training for new Alberta Supports staff, a group of trainees were provided with snapshots of client information databases on USB sticks. “All USB sticks were in the possession of current Government of Alberta staff, with one exception,” the release said. “A USB stick in the possession of a former staff member was briefly unaccountable, but located and returned the next day.”

All 79 USB sticks have been accounted for and information has been deleted.

Client information contained in database snapshots included names, contact information, dates of birth, Social Insurance Numbers, Personal Health Numbers, banking and financial information and Alberta Supports program affiliation, AHS said in the release.

Alberta Supports provides financial, family and social supports.

The ministry added that the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta was contacted as soon as AHS became aware of a potential breach. The commissioner agreed with contacting the clients whose personal information was unaccountable.

Clients were being contacted by phone on Friday and encouraged to reach out to their financial institutions, monitor their financial transactions and mail, obtain a free statement of benefits paid from AHS and contact a credit reporting agency. As a precaution, AHS is also offering to cover the costs of credit monitoring services.

Clients affected by the potential breach will receive follow-up information via mail. Those who do not receive a call are not affected, the ministry said.

“I am deeply concerned by this potential privacy breach resulting from a lapse in training practices,” Irfan Sabir, Minister of Human Services, said in the release. “I want to assure all Albertans that we will work with them to address any potential concerns this may cause and we will be re-visiting our practices to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”