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Data for 18,105 coronavirus patients are leaked after staff click the wrong button

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A Wales Public Health staff accidentally extracted data on more than 18,000 COVID-19 patients by clicking the wrong button.

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For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit WHO website.

Your health information is supposed to be confidential, with protection to ensure it does not fall into the wrong hands, but a mistake as simple as clicking the wrong button can make the sensitive information of thousands of people go public.

On Monday, Wales Public Health revealed that it accidentally disclosed the personal data of 18,105 Welsh residents who tested positive for Covida-19, and that data was visible for 20 hours on a public server on August 30 and viewed up to 56 times, said the agency.

The data belonged to every Welsh resident who tested positive for COVID-19 between 27 February and 30 August. It included people’s initials, date of birth, gender and general location, but no specific information about who they are. Still, for a subgroup of 1,926 people living in sheltered shelters or nursing homes, the data included the names of those places.

The data is supposed to be posted on the internal private panel of Wales Public Health Public Chart, but instead ended up in public face site after an employee accidentally clicked the wrong button.

“We take our obligations to protect people’s data extremely seriously and I’m sorry we failed on this occasion,” Tracey Cooper, Wales’ chief public health executive, said in a statement. “I would like to assure the public that we have established very clear data protection processes and policies.”

Public Health Wales said it has since split its internal and public control panel processes to ensure error can no longer occur, and added more controls to ensure people are uploading data to the right servers.

The agency added that the National Health Service is conducting an independent investigation and is asking why patient records were not anonymized.

Public Health Wales considers the leaked data to be low risk, as it was for a limited time and the information was limited, and said it would not contact people affected by the breach.

The breach in Wales is not the first to spill information on people dealing with the new coronavirus. COVID-19 patients in South Dakota suffered a data leak in June. In South Korea, where health officials use personal data to track the spread of the disease, there are also raised privacy concerns.

In September, Los Angeles County announced a partnership with Citizen to track contacts, but the app shows accurate location data for potential exposures to COVID-19, which would allow people to find out who has the disease.

Privacy advocates warn that data protection associated with COVID-19 patients is essential. If people do not believe their privacy is being protected, they are less likely to take tests and volunteer to be tracked.

U.S. lawmakers are proposing privacy protections for COVID-19 data, to ensure that the information is used for public health purposes only and cannot be used for government oversight or enterprise profits.


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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified health care provider about any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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