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More than 18,000 Peel residents affected by data theft

Peel Public Health officials are in touch with more than 18,000 residents after an unencrypted SD card containing personal data was stolen from a staffer’s vehicle.

“An SD card that contained this information — and that was not encrypted — was placed inside a bag that was then stolen from an employee’s car,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa, Peel Region’s associate medical officer of health.

It was taken the evening of Sept. 23 and reported stolen the following day.

Officials say the SD card contained the name, address, birth date, age, marital status and assessment information of clients who took part in the Healthy Babies Healthy Children program between March 2010 and August 2011 and a few from earlier dates.

Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner expressed her disappointment at the breach and said her office was investigating the incident.

“Personal health information contains some of the most intimate details of a person’s life,” Ann Cavoukian said. “My office has issued several orders which state that personal health information must not be retained on any type of mobile storage device (e.g., SD cards, laptops, memory sticks, PDAs) unless it is absolutely necessary and if it is necessary, that it must be encrypted.”

She also called on all health care organizations to review their practices immediately.

The stolen card did not contain financial data but Dr. de Villa advises those affected to monitor and verify their financial statements as a precaution.

There were no social insurance or health card numbers on the card.

“We take our responsibility to protect personal health information very seriously. We did not do that and I apologize to all residents of Peel — but most importantly to those who were directly affected — for this breach,” said Emil Kolb, Peel Region chair.

“I want to reassure the public that this was an isolated incident. It is not standard or acceptable practice for us to put client information on unencrypted devices,” he said.

Peel officials are investigating and will review their privacy protocols.