Officials caught 'snooping' on health records, N.S. privacy commissioner says
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HALIFAX -- An investigation by Nova Scotia's privacy commissioner says health officials have been caught "snooping" on personal health records -- something she says is a serious invasion of privacy and a prosecutable offence.
In an annual report released Wednesday, commissioner Catherine Tully says an investigation revealed a "dangerous and insidious culture of entitlement" to viewing records at the Nova Scotia Health Authority, with unauthorized access in some cases taking place over a long period of time.
The investigation was launched after the authority admitted some staff had misused their "access privileges," including one scenario that resulted in a million-dollar class-action lawsuit.
The report says the authority co-operated with the investigation, which examined the unauthorized access of 335 personal health records by six different staff at multiple work sites, and has accepted all eight recommendations.
Opposition Leader Tim Houston called on the government to fix the problem quickly, saying there has been a clear failure to protect personal health information.
The Tory leader says it's critical that the issue is fixed before a new electronic health record system is introduced.
"The Liberal government has to get things right before they ask us to trust them with even more personal information in a massive one patient, one record system." Houston said in a statement Wednesday.
"Every breach, every report that suggests failure to protect private information damages the already crumbling trust that Nova Scotians have in their government."
Tully cautioned that the increasing collection of data about individuals can be beneficial but also risky.
"Nova Scotians deserve modern access and privacy protections including effective oversight of their rights," she said in a message included in the report.
"Our current laws are no longer up to the task," she said, recommending for the second time that the province's privacy laws be modernized.