Federal government violated privacy of Canadians aboard virus-infected cruise ship

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VICTORIA –
Just days after returning from a cruise in which four other passengers died in a new coronavirus epidemic, more than 240 Canadians aboard MS Zaandam learned that their privacy had been violated by the government federal.

Norma Kirkham was still aboard the Holland America Line cruise ship off Florida on April 1 when she received an email from Global Affairs Canada. He described the agency’s efforts to convince federal and state officials to finally allow the virus-infected ship to dock and leave the Canadians on board after weeks of uncertainty at sea.

It was a relief. Passengers would be allowed to descend the next day, entry to various ports having been denied since March 14.

Within minutes of receiving the email, however, the resident of Vancouver Island received another – the latter asking her to immediately delete the previous message.

“So I said to myself, what did they send?” Kirkham told CTV News on Tuesday. “I scrolled to the bottom of the email and of course there was the Excel spreadsheet with all the personal information. “

The federal government inadvertently shared a passenger manifest with all Canadians aboard the Zaandam, including their names, dates of birth, home addresses, telephone numbers and passport numbers.

“I was worried,” said Kirkham.

In a follow-up email from Global Affairs Canada sent to passengers on April 10, the agency blamed an “administrative error” for the privacy violation and encouraged passengers to monitor their bank accounts and request reports. credit for the next 36 months to prevent identity theft. .

“It was our responsibility to be vigilant, to check our credit rating,” said Kirkham. “There was certainly nothing from Global Affairs saying,” This is what we are going to do for you. We made a mistake and we are going to fix it. “”

Kirkham had previously shared the email containing the manifesto with his son and suspects that others on board also passed it on to family and friends.

Her husband David Kirkham is asking the federal government to issue the couple new 10-year passports and monitor the credit for free. “This is a potential identity theft and we just want protection,” he said.

In an April 10 email to affected passengers, Global Affairs Canada stated that “in response to this incident, a small unit was established” to manage passenger communications, saying “by strengthening expertise and operational processes strict within this team, we are confident that we will avoid further errors of this nature. “

The advisory advises passengers to “stay alert to suspicious activity” and place fraud alerts on their financial accounts to prevent the opening of new accounts on their behalf.

Passenger and Vancouver Islander Wendy Mitchell says she wants an apology first.

“Global Affairs should have apologized and this letter they sent was not a letter of apology,” said Mitchell. “I would like to see some responsibility there. “

Like the Kirkhams, Mitchell also asked for a new passport and additional credit monitoring, calling the whole test of cruising and its aftermath “psychologically difficult”.

Meanwhile, Mitchell has filed a formal complaint with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Global Affairs Canada acknowledged a request for comment from CTV News on the privacy breach on Tuesday, but has yet to comment.

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