District of Squamish officials last year accidentally posted bylaw infraction information on the district’s website that should have remained private.
The privacy breach happened for approximately a month in January 2011. At the time, the public was able to access mostly unidentifiable bylaw complaint attachments, said Robin Arthurs, the municipality’s general manager of corporate services. Those included items such as photos of vehicles or a low-hanging branch over a sidewalk.
District officials were made aware of the infringement by a member of the public who found an audio file of the same person’s voicemail message on the website, Arthurs noted. Ten minutes later, the problem was fixed, Arthurs said.
“As soon as we were made aware, we phoned the ombudsman, we phoned the privacy commissioner, we phoned our lawyer and the RCMP,” Arthurs told The Chief.
Under the directive of the district, an investigation was launched by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. It covered privacy impact statements for each possible breach. The municipality hand delivered letters and had conversations with everyone affected, Arthurs said. She estimated that that amounted to about 20 people.
The investigation determined the breach likely only resulted in a single residence temporarily accessing private information, district spokesperson Christie Smith wrote in an email. After the investigation, the RCMP did not consider the situation significant enough to warrant further examination, she wrote.
The district did contact its web service provider, a provider used by hundreds of B.C. municipalities, Arthurs said.
“They concluded that it was a matter of human error,” she said.
The district followed a standard protocol for the privacy breach, Mayor Rob Kirkham said.
“You never want it to happen, but if it does, then you follow these procedures,” he said.
The municipality took the incident seriously, Smith wrote. Municipal officials are “confident that our processes and procedures are secure and safe and consistently evaluates its operations to ensure they meet required standards,” she noted.