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Former privacy watchdog calls for stronger systems to protect health records

TORONTO – Ontario’s former privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian is calling for more protections to keep people from accessing health records without authorization.

Mount Sinai Hospital announced Thursday two of its employees who were not part of Mayor Rob Ford’s health care team had “inappropriately accessed” his health records.

The breach was caught during a routine audit after the fact.

Cavoukian, the executive director of the Privacy and Big Data Institute at Ryerson University, however said hospitals need to do more to stop it from happening in the first place.

“I think we need stronger systems that can prevent ideally, not just detect these types of breaches from happening,” she said during an interview Friday.

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The mayor is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment at Mount Sinai hospital for a rare form of cancer he was diagnosed with in September.

Doctors found a 12 x 12 centimetre tumour in his abdomen and are hoping the chemotherapy can shrink it so they can remove the tumour surgically.

Cavoukian suggested hospitals could implement a firewall of sorts to keep people who don’t need to access the files from doing so.

“I would love to work with the hospitals to devise technical means by which they can protect the data at the front end in terms of who is permitted to access these medical records,” she said.

Correction (Oct.18): This story was corrected to show that Ann Cavoukian no longer serves as Ontario’s privacy commissioner. She is now the executive director of the Privacy and Big Data Institute at Ryerson University. 

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