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Ministry of Health data breach "inexcusable"

By Shannon Williams
Mon 5 Oct 2015
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The Labour Party is slamming a recent privacy breach that has seen the unauthorised release of confidential birth and death details of over 24,000 people, with Labour’s health spokesperson Annette King labelling the breach as inexcusable.

The breach was made via an email that was sent to nearly a thousand pharmacists, containing the birth and death dates of 24,092 people.

“The Ministry of Health’s emailing of electronic files to all 950 pharmacists who use an online health portal is shocking, whether unintentional or not,” King says.

“Patients must be able to trust the information they give to doctors will only be accessible to staff involved in their treatment.”

Annette says this data was ‘particularly sensitive’, and its release to the public would be hugely distressing to relatives and loved ones.

According the NZ Herald, security on NHI numbers is extremely high, with access restricted to health professionals and agencies governed by the Health Information Privacy Code.

“Ministry staff know confidentiality is paramount when dealing with clients’ data and while this particular breach involved coded data, it follows a number of other high profile leaks of information from other Government departments, including ACC, WINZ and IRD,” she says.

“Any breach of this magnitude is unacceptable, full stop.”

King adds, “The Ministry must now not only assure New Zealanders its systems are robust, but if any patients’ released details make them identifiable, families should be contacted and offered an apology.”

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