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Invercargill woman slams CYF for privacy breach

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Posted 12 April 2016 - 04:18 PM

Invercargill woman slams CYF for privacy breach


Last updated 05:00, November 14 2015

An Invercargill woman is horrified she was sent private details of another person after she applied for her own Child Youth and Family file.

Samantha Smith said she broke down in tears when she realised she was reading private details of another person, after she requested her own Child Youth and Family file to help her with her grief counselling following the death of her four-and-a-half-month-old son.

Smith said she had first entered CYF care aged 3, and had moved around several foster and group homes while she was growing up.

She picked up her file from the Invercargill office on October 23, but did not open it until a few days ago, she said.

"I was reading about myself at 13, this wishlist, wanting $10 pocket money a week and my own bank account so I could pay board and go shopping."

But a few pages later it was clear the information was about another person, she said.

"I thought 'this isn't me, this isn't me', I threw the whole lot on the floor actually, and I cried," Smith said.

The information belonged to another person, born in the same year, but in a different place and on a different month and day.

While Smith was born in Gore and lived in the South Island her entire life, the information was about a person living in Auckland.

The information was 13 pages long, and included hand-written and typed accounts of abuse.

"What I read was disturbing enough, then to realise it wasn't me … I cried about it a lot," Smith said.

She was horrified such sensitive information could be mixed in with the wrong paperwork.

"I chose to read it again, I wanted to find [the person] and let [them] know," Smith said.

Smith said she left a message on Tuesday for the person's case manager, who was also identified in the paperwork, and was phoned by a person who said they were from "privacy and official information" on Wednesday.

"They apologised, said they'd gone over the files and had seen I'd been sent some sensitive information."

They also promised to check whether any of her own information was missing, Smith said.

In response to emailed questions, Ministry of Social Development privacy and information manager Rob Brown said the error had occurred after the person compiling the information failed to realise it involved two different people.

"The Ministry of Social Development has apologised to a Southland woman who was mistakenly sent information."

Editors were required to carry out a range of checks to ensure the correct information was provided to requestors, but unfortunately the correct process was not followed and a mistake was made, Brown said.

The ministry had apologised and arranged for the information to be collected, he said.

"We will work with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to take the appropriate action to remedy this issue in relation to the person whose information was mistakenly shared with the woman."

The ministry was also taking action in relation to the editor responsible for the release, including providing further training.

"The Ministry takes mistakes like these extremely seriously and while no system can prevent human error they are relatively rare.

"There have been 14 privacy breaches by the Privacy and Official Information Service since 2013 – against the release of more than 20,000 files during that time."

- Stuff

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