A man arrested in connection with a mass privacy breach of Covid-19 vaccination data is due to appear in the Wellington District Court today.
The appearance comes after Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand launched an employment investigation, accusing a health sector worker of spreading misinformation using government data about Covid-19 vaccines.
A 56-year-old man was arrested yesterday afternoon in relation to the “unauthorised disclosure and misuse of data”, police said.
He is charged with accessing a computer system for dishonest purposes.
“As the case is before the court, police cannot comment further,” police said.
A man believed to be a Te Whatu Ora staff member was interviewed on a New Zealand conspiracy theory site last week. He claimed he developed a database for the vaccine rollout and quoted from that work.
Former TV presenter and conspiracy theorist Liz Gunn took to X, formerly Twitter, yesterday to report police surrounded the “whistleblower’s” house at 2.15pm and that an arrest was imminent.
On Sunday, the ministry said the staff member had no clinical background or expert vaccine knowledge, and there was no evidence vaccination was responsible for “excess mortality in New Zealand”.
It’s alleged an individual downloaded a large amount of vaccine-related information, Te Whatu Ora chief executive Margie Apa said.
“The data, as published on an overseas site, appears to have been anonymised. Analysis of the released data is ongoing, but work so far has not found any National Health Index Numbers or personally identifiable information.”
Apa said an injunction had been used to have information taken down from an overseas website and cyber security specialists are continuing to scan extensively for any other places where the information may appear.
“We sought and were granted an injunction through the Employment Relations Authority that prevents any publication of the data to ensure that we can take all steps to protect the privacy of individuals.”
A woman getting her Covid booster vaccination. Photo / Dave Murdoch
An employment investigation was also under way and the person was no longer at work, Apa said.
“The individual has worked in the health system for a number of years. He was authorised to access data as part of his work and was locked out of our systems as soon as we became aware of the unauthorised use,” Apa said.
He had been employed since the inception of Te Whatu Ora last year.
She said the organisation took data security very seriously. It was “extremely disappointed at this gross breach of trust” and the alleged spreading of harmful misinformation.
“We can assure the public that we are doing everything we can to respond to this incident and to safeguard their information.”
She said a thorough investigation is under way.
“What this individual is trying to claim about vaccines is completely wrong and ill-informed, and their comments demonstrate this. The person has no clinical background or expert vaccine knowledge and appears to be trying to spread misinformation,” Apa said.
“Vaccination is safe and effective, and everyone should keep up to date with their shots to protect themselves, whānau and their communities.”
She assured people there was no evidence whatsoever that vaccination is responsible for excess mortality in New Zealand.
“We have had a team working through the weekend to respond to this incident and are working closely with other agencies, including the National Cyber Security Centre, police, Department of Internal Affairs and Office of the Privacy Commissioner,” Apa said.
“We have also been offering advice and support to some individual pharmacies and vaccination sites that were identified in an early video published in relation to the unauthorised disclosure and misuse of data.”
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