Monday, February 06, 2006

Incident: Faxes about American patients accidentally sent to Canadian company ... for 15 months

Most Canadians with any interest in privacy are well aware of the very high-profile CIBC faxing fiasco that resulted in hundreds of confidential faxes being sent from dozens of bank branches to one particular junk yard in the United States. When the story broke, it was front-page news and continued making headlines for weeks. It has even spawned a class action lawsuit against the bank, alleging that the failure to notify the indivuduals concerned caused them increased risk of identity theft.

Now there's a similar story coming from the US about hundreds of faxes being accidentally sent to a Canadian manufacturer of herbal remedies. According to Computerworld, a large number of people have trying to send Prudential Financial Inc.'s insurance arm faxes containing confidential patient information. Unfortunately, hundreds went to a company called North Regent RX in Manitoba, Canada. The two toll-free fax numbers only differ by one digit. This is likely to be labeled outrageous, but compounding the situation is that it apparently has gone unchecked for fifteen months.

The company apparently notified Prudential in October 2004 but months passed without any response. Now, Prudential is reported to say that that it is not their problem. They have no responsibility for others who incorrectly fax information. That may be true, but I am sure Prudential will face a storm of criticism asking what it did to protect its customers' information. The Manitoba company offered to sell its toll-free fax number of Prudential, which declined. They simply asked that misdirected faxes be mailed to Prudential as they came in. North Regent had intially contacted the senders, but quickly found they did not have the time and resources to continue to do so.

Legally, Prudential may have no responsibility for the misdirected faxes, but it will still face criticism that might have been avoided had they simply bought the fax number.

Check out Computerworld for the full story: Confidential patient data sent to wrong company -- for 15 months - Computerworld.

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