#CyberFLASH: Phoenix pay system also breached federal workers’ privacy

the-pay-centre-satellite-office-ottawa-phoenix-payA dysfunctional compensation system that’s withholding paycheques from federal workers has also been breaching their privacy, CBC News has learned.

Newly released documents show senior officials were warned as early as Jan. 18 that the new Phoenix system has a flaw that allows widespread access to employees’ personnel records, including social insurance numbers.

Despite the warning, the faulty software was broadly implemented this spring — without alerting the unions or any employees that their private details were no longer secure.

The disclosure of a massive privacy breach appears in documents obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act, deepening a crisis that has already touched some 80,000 public servants and triggered a wave of hiring to patch the problems.

The briefing material prepared by Public Services and Procurement Canada indicates that up to 70,000 public servants had access to the personal details of all 300,000 employees covered by the system.

A spokeswoman for Canada’s privacy commissioner confirmed the department “has reported this matter to our office and we have followed up with them.” Valerie Lawton said she could provide no further details.

The minister in charge, Judy Foote, said she learned only this week of the internal breach of private information. “I am aware of it, and I’ve been told that none of the information became public,” she said in an interview.

Over to privacy commissioner

Foote said she has turned the matter over to the privacy commissioner for investigation, and will focus on getting people paid.

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