Employees’ protected data abandoned on Yellowknife road
A box of employees’ tax returns, resumes, and employment records has been found abandoned by the side of a Yellowknife road.
The documents, containing social insurance numbers, birth dates, and other identifying information, originated with Slave Lake Equities – a now-defunct company owned by Mike Mrdjenovich, known to many Yellowknifers as a property developer.
When contacted about the box, his answer to Cabin Radio: “And?”
The documents were turned over to the RCMP. The person who found the box by the side of School Draw Avenue also contacted Cabin Radio. She did not wish to be identified out of concern for her own privacy.
RCMP and Mrdjenovich confirmed the existence of the document dump.
The tax documents are labelled “Protected B when completed” – a designation protecting them, by law, from public view. Protected B status, according to the federal government, “applies to information or assets that, if compromised, could cause serious injury to an individual, organization, or government.”
That kind of information is not meant to end up in a box by the side of the road.
“Shit happens,” Mrdjenovich explained.
He suggested the documents may have been stolen. “An ex-employee stole them or something, but anyway [the finder] returned them and it doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s the end of the story.”
When the individual who found the box brought it to the RCMP, she was surprised at what she felt to be their nonchalance.
“I took it to the RCMP but they didn’t seem too fussed,” she said. “It’s not really fair to the people who have had their identities dumped.”
Cabin Radio tried to contact two of the individuals whose identities were compromised through their documents, but did not receive a response.
Yellowknife RCMP treated the discovery “as a lost-and-found,” a spokesperson said.
“There is no criminal element to this matter and the RCMP is not investigating,” she added.
‘No more secrets’
Mrdjenovich, too, downplayed the significance of the breach.
“I really don’t think that’s a big story, buddy,” he said. “It’s a few construction workers’ documents… what do you want me to do?”
Federal legislation governing the handling of such information treats breaches seriously. Businesses are expected to have procedures to protect employees’ information, and to report breaches to the privacy commissioner – and to the affected people – when they occur.
The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act sets out penalties of up to $100,000 for failure to do so.
Mrdjenovich, meanwhile, suggested that in the era of social media, privacy is no longer achievable.
“There are no more secrets,” he said. “People giving their info for nothing – for free. What the hell is the big deal?”
This is the third reported breach of privacy involving sensitive personal information in Yellowknife in the past 13 months.
In May of 2018, a laptop containing health information was stolen in Ottawa, exposing unencrypted medical records relating to residents from across the NWT.
In May of this year, a packet of papers containing 200 children’s medical information was found at the city’s dump.
Pressed, Mrdjenovich suggested he is investigating the potential theft of the documents.
“I’ve got 1,100 employees; I can’t monitor everybody, buddy,” he said. “I wish I could.”