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Protect NWT breaches isolators’ privacy, again

Last modified: June 28, 2021 at 7:26am


A worker at Protect NWT, the territory’s pandemic enforcement agency, sent an email earlier this month that resulted in the “unauthorized disclosure” of 259 people’s personal information. 

The email, sent on June 23, notified people isolating in the territory that the isolation requirement had been lifted for fully vaccinated NWT residents on June 21, meaning they could amend their self-isolation plan to leave isolation early. 

A spokesperson for the NWT’s Covid-19 Secretariat told Cabin Radio the email distribution list was mistakenly made visible to all recipients, meaning email addresses and some names of those in isolation were exposed.

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A follow-up email sent to recipients stated: “This email was sent to you in error. Please delete immediately, and let us know that you have deleted the email.” 

The spokesperson said there is no evidence personal information was further disclosed. An initial investigation by NWT health officials determined the incident was the result of human error. 

The NWT’s privacy commissioner has been notified of the breach. A spokesperson for that office told Cabin Radio they do not generally discuss ongoing investigations. 

This is not the first time Protect NWT has breached the privacy of people isolating in recent months.  

In April, an email sent to people isolating in Yellowknife similarly exposed email addresses and some names. The number of people affected was not disclosed.

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According to one person affected by the most recent breach, Protect NWT initially sent them a letter stating their personal information had been disclosed on April 19 – a reference to the previous incident. They were later sent a correction email with a letter stating their personal information had been disclosed on June 23. 

The Covid-19 Secretariat said it is taking steps to prevent future privacy breaches, including a new process that requires any mass emails to be sent from the director. 

“The Department of Health and Social Services extends its sincere apologies to those impacted by this incident,”  a spokesperson stated by email.

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