More than 69,000 public servants caught up in the Phoenix pay system debacle are now victims of a privacy breach after their personal information was accidentally emailed to the wrong people, says Public Services and Procurement Canada.
The problem-plagued electronic payroll system has improperly paid tens of thousands of public servants since its launch in 2016. Some employees have gone months with little or no pay, while others have been overpaid, sometimes for months at a time.
As the government has struggled to fix the system, Public Services and Procurement Canada has been sending departmental heads of human resources and chief financial officers reports every two weeks listing employee overpayments.
Earlier this month, a report naming 69,087 public servants was accidentally emailed to the wrong federal departments.
The report included the employees’ full names, their personal record identifier numbers, home addresses and overpayment amounts.
More than 161 chief financial officers and 62 heads of HR in 62 departments received the report in error, according to a statement posted to Public Services and Procurement Canada’s website on Monday.
Department reviewing how info is stored
The department said it took steps to contain and destroy the information and notified the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
It also said affected employees will be notified in the coming days. The department has stopped the distribution of overpayment reports pending the results of the investigation.
“Our government takes privacy concerns and the protection of personal information very seriously and it is top of mind in the work we do at PSPC,” said Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand in an email to CBC News.
“We will take steps to ensure that this does not happen again and fully reevaluate the way in which personal information is stored and used.”
Public Services and Procurement Canada isn’t the only department to accidentally breach the confidentiality of workers’ personal information.
According to figures recently tabled in the House of Commons, federal departments or agencies mishandled personal information belonging to 144,000 Canadians over the past two years.
Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien has long called out “strong indications of systemic under-reporting” of privacy breaches across government.