The National Public Health Agency in Wales on Monday reported a large-scale breach of data from Welsh residents who tested positive for coronavirus.
Public Health Wales said as of August 30, “personally identifiable data” for 18,105 Welsh residents were “mistakenly uploaded to a public server where it could be requested by anyone using this site.”
The information was available for 20 hours and viewed 56 times.
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Health officials said there was no evidence the data was misused and described the identification risk as low. For the vast majority of cases (16,179), the data included “people’s initials, date of birth, geographical area and gender”.
However, the issues were worse for the nearly 2,000 people living in nursing homes, as the data called the environment.
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“We take our obligations to protect people’s data extremely seriously and I’m sorry we failed on this occasion,” said Dr. Tracey Cooper, chief executive of the agency. “We have launched a swift and thorough external investigation into how this specific incident occurred and the lessons to be learned.”
Health officials said the Office of the Information Commissioner (ICO) and the Welsh Government were informed, and the NHS Wales Information Service is leading an external investigation into the breach.
Cooper is said to have been told BBC Wales that PHW “should have gotten [the data] down faster ”.
According to the BBC, after the data was uploaded at 14:00 on 30 August, the person who was “warned” [of] the breach “” did not follow serious body incident reporting procedures, “adding that the data was taken the next morning at 9:55 a.m.
Officials assured that “immediate action” was taken to prevent a similar situation from happening again, such as changes to standard operating procedures (an older member would perform data uploads).
Those with concerns were asked to look at the agency’s posted FAQs and then email the agency with any additional questions.
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