Protect NWT admits privacy breach involving isolation

A Protect NWT staff member inadvertently triggered a privacy breach by emailing people who were isolating without blind-copying their names and addresses.

The NWT Department of Health and Social Services’ chief information officer sent a written apology to the people involved on Thursday. The letter identified human error as the cause.

The breach happened after the NWT’s chief public health officer, citing a spike in Yellowknife’s sewage sampling for Covid-19, urged any recent travellers to get a test.


A Protect NWT staff member, trying to alert everyone currently isolating in Yellowknife to that advice, used a distribution list that “was mistakenly made visible to all recipients,” chief information officer Michele Herriot’s letter reads.

Email addresses and some names of people isolating in Yellowknife from March 31 to April 17 were exposed to everyone receiving the message.

The territorial government did not respond to Cabin Radio’s request for the number of people affected. There can be hundreds of people isolating at any one time in Yellowknife, depending on travel patterns and the time of year.

The letter said the NWT’s Covid-19 Secretariat had “taken steps to mitigate any future recurrence of this incident,” meaning the GNWT will try not to let it happen again.

As is legally required, the matter has been referred to the NWT’s information and privacy commissioner.