​Phoenix privacy breach unacceptable, must be addressed immediately by the government

Officials at Public Services Procurement Canada were aware that the Phoenix pay system might cause privacy breaches as early as January 2016, according to media reports released yesterday.

Minister Foote acknowledged last night that the private information of thousands of public service workers has been shared with close to 70,000 staff.

“This is serious and unacceptable. The private information of our members and all public service workers should not be in the hands of anyone who does not need it,” said PSAC National President, Robyn Benson.

“The government must let public service employees know immediately about what personal information has been shared and how they can take steps to protect their identities.”

“I am writing to the Privacy Commissioner immediately, as well as the Prime Minister and Minister Foote, to express our alarm.”

Government already aware of privacy concerns

The government was aware as early as January 2016 that that there were grave privacy concerns with the Phoenix pay system. Despite this, the government consistently told employees that their privacy was fully protected.

PSAC shared privacy concerns

When we shared our concerns about privacy protection last May 2016, PSPC assured us that a Privacy Impact Assessment was completed and all privacy concerns had been addressed. It now appears that some aspect of this process was deeply flawed. 

PSAC calling on the government for immediate action

  • Information has be shared with all public service employees about what personal information has been shared and how they can take steps to protect their identity.
  • A hotline must be created to address individual members concerns about privacy issues, staffed with knowledgeable agents.
  • The government must commit to approving compensation for any employee who has incurred costs because of privacy violations.

“PSPC has consistently refused to listen to the PSAC and other unions with regards to problems with the Phoenix pay system, even though our concerns have been proven valid time and time again. 80,000 employees are experiencing issues with their pay. That is a staggering number,” concluded Benson.