Privacy breaches on the rise in British Columbia

6 April 2015

According to a report from the office of British Columbia information and privacy commissioner Elizabeth Denham, privacy breaches are on the rise in B.C. Her office analyzed data covering the years between 2010 and 2013, and found that there were 3,779 suspected privacy breaches reported during that time by B.C. government agencies, with 2,700 of them later confirmed as actual breaches of sensitive information. This means that during those three years, there were on average three breaches every business day.

The good news is that only about one percent of the breaches were caused by phishing or cyber attacks. The bad news is that the source of most of the breaches is the government itself, or rather, human errors committed by government employees. Sixty-eight percent of the breaches fell under the heading of “administrative errors”, like sending private account information to the wrong recipient.

Denham emphasized the importance of reporting privacy breaches to her office for tracking, noting that only one percent of the total number of breaches she discovered were reported. She intends to conduct audits of the health and education sectors next to see whether they are properly reporting breaches.

“In this day and age where so much of our personal data is collected by the government in electronic form, we want to make sure that care is taken when something goes wrong,” she told 24 Hours Vancouver, also noting that people often don’t have a choice on whether or not to provide their personal information to the government.

Government privacy breaches may expose you to the risk of identity theft. A credit monitoring program can monitor your credit files and alert you to certain activities that could indicate identity theft.