Nova Scotia Workers Compensation Appeal Tribunal (WCAT) Privacy Breach

A recent privacy breach released private and personal information online from hundreds of Workers Compensation Appeal Tribunal (WCAT) decisions. When WCAT decisions are released, both employee and employer names are supposed to be removed to protect intimate personal information. When the 1999 to 2009 WCAT decisions were posted by the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII), onto their open-access website, most decisions included the names of the individuals involved in the WCAT proceedings. This resulted in a privacy breach by linking full names with the personal information included in the decisions.

Personal information included in WCAT decisions can be either health-related or non-health related. Health-related personal information can include physical or mental health information, health history (including family member’s health history), health card numbers, health care payments, or health care eligibility. Non-health related personal information can include addresses, phone numbers, political beliefs or associations, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, education history, criminal history, or employment history.

The Nova Scotia government was informed of this privacy breach by the CBC on May 12, 2020 and has since removed the un-redacted WCAT decisions from the open-source CanLii website; however, these decisions, including the personal information included therein, were accessible to the public prior to their removal and could have been downloaded onto individuals’ computers from the CanLii website.

The Province of Nova Scotia has since reported the incident to the Privacy Review Officer for investigation and issued a statement regarding the WCAT privacy breach, but it is only mandatory for the government to contact individuals who have had their health-related personal information breached. This means that a breach of personal information not related to health does not require the government to notify the individual that their privacy was breached.

If you were involved in a Workers Compensation Appeal Tribunal decision between 1999 and 2009, and are concerned that your privacy may have been breached, we invite you to contact Wagners for assistance and to discuss this breach of your privacy.

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