COVID-19: Privacy Breach with Alberta’s QR Code Vaccine Registrations

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The province reported Thursday night a breach of privacy with its updated QR codes for COVID-19 vaccination.

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Twelve people reported receiving another person’s records – showing names, dates of birth and COVID-19 vaccination status – as they tried to download their own updated QR codes, the province said in a press release. Alberta Health said it shut down the website immediately to investigate the problem and that no other personal or health details are associated with the QR codes.

The government is investigating and said it does not believe the problem was caused by a security breach.

“The protection of Albertan’s privacy is always our top priority and I apologize for this potential breach,” Health Minister Jason Copping said in a press release. “I will assure Albertans that they will be kept informed when the investigation is completed and the updated travel record will be available as soon as the technical issue is resolved.”

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Alberta Health notified the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of the breach and the investigation, the agency said.

The updated QR codes, intended to meet standards for international and domestic travel, did not become available until Tuesday. The previous version is still accepted in the province.

NDP health critic David Shepherd said that while he is happy that Alberta Health apologized and went quickly to resolve the issue, he thinks Alberta residents are frustrated and disappointed by the pace at which these passports are needed to travel has been rolled out.

“They have been forced into a position where they had to hurry to try to catch up with other jurisdictions, and it ends up in a situation like this where the Albertans get their private information broken,” Shepherd said in an interview.

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“This government waited until the last minute to take any steps at all to get the vaccine passport program in place. It was very clear that they were in a hurry. It was very clear that they were fighting to do something that they had not wanted to do. ”

Skiing? No wax port required outside

Meanwhile, Alberta is updating the restriction exemption program – the province’s vaccine passport system – so people can ski without requiring proof of vaccination.

However, this only applies to stays outside.

Indoors, masks are still mandatory, as well as either restrictions or proof of vaccination. Physical distance is still required for closed chairlifts and gondolas.

Alberta also allows trade shows, such as holiday markets and arts and crafts fairs, to make use of vaccine passes.

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“These changes maintain the intent of the (exemption program) – to keep Albertans safe – while reflecting what we have heard for businesses and venues to function effectively,” Copping said in a news release earlier Thursday.

The restriction exemption program allows venues to operate without most COVID-19 restrictions, provided that all visiting guests aged 12 and over are vaccinated or show evidence of a negative COVID-19 test.

379 cases

A further 379 COVID-19 cases were reported in Alberta on Thursday, and another person has died from the disease.

A total of 465 patients were admitted with the disease, including 98 who needed intensive care in Alberta. Across the province, there were 4,969 active cases, including 1,119 in the Edmonton zone and 1,880 in the Calgary zone.

lboothby@postmedia.com

@laurby

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