Canadian Children's Rights Council
Conseil canadien des droits des enfants
MEP-Alberta Data Privacy Violation

Update: Up to 60 sensitive files possibly breached at Alberta's maintenance enforcement program

The Edmonton Journal, by MARIAM IBRAHIM, April 4, 2016

An Alberta government employee is under investigation after Edmonton police discovered as many as 60 sensitive files in the province's maintenance enforcement program may have been accessed inappropriately.

The alleged privacy breach was discovered during a larger police investigation, Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said Monday.

The enforcement program collects and enforces court-ordered child and spousal support payments, meaning the files contained financial information and other personal details.

"Obviously, we're deeply concerned because this is the private information of individuals who have come into the program - sometimes very vulnerable individuals," Ganley said.

The employee in question is under investigation by both Edmonton police and Justice Department officials, Ganley said. The employee still has a job with the government, but no longer has access to the client database, Ganley added.

"To the best of our knowledge, there is only one individual involved," she said.

The province said the case was brought to its attention last week. It's not clear when the breach occurred, but an Edmonton police spokesman said it was discovered during an unrelated investigation in mid-March.

Police declined to release any further details, citing the ongoing investigation.

Ganley said her department typically conducts criminal background checks on potential employees of the maintenance enforcement program because the files in question contain such sensitive information.

Ganleyhas ordered her department to figure out how many records were accessed and what can be done to prevent another breach.

"At this exact moment, it appears that up to 60 files may have been affected; however, we haven't gone through all the files yet, so we don't know for sure," Ganley said.

A notice about the privacy breach was posted on the program's website and Ganley said staff are currently contacting the people affected.

Alberta Justice has informed information and privacy commissioner Jill Clayton of the breach. Her office said it is monitoring the investigation conducted by Justice Department officials, but hasn't launched one of its own.

In 2014, a low-level Alberta Health Services administrator was fired after deliberately snooping through nearly 250 patient records over the course of 14 months. It was later revealed the health authority knew about the privacy breach for two months before the Alberta Children's Hospital employee was fired.