Data privacy breach affects FHA

April 16, 2006

By Jeff Nagel, Black Press

Fraser Health Authority (FHA) employees have been warned that some of them who used an ultra-confidential counselling service may have had their privacy breached as a result of a theft of a computer.

The computer with a disk inside it went missing in March from the Vancouver office of the Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) run by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.

The disk contained the names, birth dates, contact information and referral reasons for thousands of Lower Mainland health workers who sought help for intensely personal problems. The service offers help with relationship counselling, drug or alcohol addictions, sexuality questions, abuse, loss and grief, and stress or emotional traumas - among other issues.

"People who use the EFAP program are often going through a crisis of some kind," said Hospital Employees' Union spokesman Mike Old. "The theft of that information is of great concern to the union and its members." Fraser Health Authority spokesman Paul Harris said the authority doesn't know how many of its employees are affected.

"Because it's a confidential service we have no idea who has used it," he said. Old said the HEU is troubled that health authority employees weren't notified of the theft until April 6 - 10 days after it happened.

The notification from EFAP indicated the data had some degree of encryption and might not be readily viewable. "We have no reason to believe that the individual who stole the equipment is even aware or has any plans to use the information," it says.

EFAP says it is reviewing its security measures.

B.C.'s Information and Privacy Commissioner is investigating the theft and monitoring the response. [an error occurred while processing this directive]