Government shaking over Earthquake privacy breach

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says he was very disappointed to learn at 2.21pm today that properties within the document sent by the Earthquake Commission to an unauthorised recipient on Friday contained more information than EQC first thought.


“I am also extremely concerned at the possibility recipients of the email may now be communicating the information to the Hon Lianne Dalziel, despite making a statutory declaration to destroy it,” Mr Brownlee says.


“If this is the case it’s an utter disgrace, and while I’m deeply disappointed that a human error caused a breach of individuals’ privacy in the first instance that is no excuse for anybody receiving the information to compound the breach by further publishing it.


“I also take great issue with Ms Dalziel’s claim that I or my staff should have checked the email and spreadsheet in question on Friday to identify that hidden data was embedded within the material.


“Information held by EQC does not routinely make its way to the Minister’s office.


“It was never possible that we could have known the content of the email or its attachment, and given that we’re dealing with people’s personal information that’s exactly as it should be – if Ms Dalziel’s suggestion is an example of the sort of hands on government Labour would practice then the public has much to fear should they be elected.


“On Friday I asked EQC to seek whatever advice and support necessary to ensure this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.


“EQC has undertaken to beef up procedures for encrypting and securely accessing sensitive data along with updated rules for using email and sensitive documents.


“An independent review will advise EQC on how to make sure that is achieved as quickly as possible.


“In the meantime, I’m told at least three steps were required to bring up the more extensive information than EQC believed had been released.


“Given there was only 40 minutes from the time the email was sent to the point where the recipient volunteered to destroy the attachment, today’s revelations raise question about whether the information has indeed been destroyed and copies made.


“I have told EQC to take whatever legal action they deem appropriate to be sure the information hasn’t been copied or distributed and that any or all copies that have been electronically made or printed have been destroyed,” Mr Brownlee says.