Privacy commissioner probing how information handled after Shaw fire

Alberta’s privacy commissioner is investigating how information was handled after a fire at Shaw Communications’ downtown Calgary headquarters.

CALGARY — Alberta’s privacy commissioner is investigating how information was handled after a fire at Shaw Communications’ downtown Calgary headquarters.

A fire and explosion forced emergency crews to evacuate the downtown building on July 11 and several computer systems holding personal, health and financial information were shut down.

Commissioner Jill Clayton will examine the safeguards that public bodies, health custodians and businesses had in place to protect personal and health information affected by the incident.

Clayton’s investigation will also look into what measures were taken by these organizations to protect the information while restoring access to services.

The initial scope of the investigation will include Service Alberta, Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services, and ATB Financial.

Clayton says the results of her investigation will be published and used to develop guidelines to help organizations plan for system failures.

“There are valuable lessons to be learned from an incident like this,” she said Monday. “We want to make sure that businesses, public bodies and health custodians are able to maintain access to critical information systems in a disaster situation in a way that maintains privacy.”

Alberta’s access and privacy laws require public bodies, health custodians and businesses to protect against risks that could affect the security and integrity of personal and health information.

The laws include the management of information during normal business operations and also preparation for unforeseen events.

Service Alberta Minister Manmeet Bhuller says he’s already looking at how the province’s main data centre, which was in the Shaw building but well away from the fire, was knocked out.

Bhuller says he’s ready to co-operate with the commissioner’s review, adding one thing he wants to know is why the emergency generators at the IBM-run data centre shut down after only 15 minutes.

All government information services have now been restored, with the exceptions of land titles and vehicle registrations.

Bhuller says IBM is working to get those back on line as soon as possible, but could not provide a timeline for restoration.

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