Homeowners are suffering immeasurable stress this afternoon after news broke that the Earthquake and War Damage Commission mistakenly deleted the entire insurance record from the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch earthquakes.
The loss happened during an attempt to clean up the privacy breach that occurred over the weekend, when insurance advocate Bryan Staples was emailed approximately 98,000 earthquake-related claims by mistake.
The claims, reportedly all stored on a single Microsoft Excel file, were apparently terminated this morning by a junior staffer at EQC, who was asked to help clean up the weekend’s mess.
“Following that breach, we assigned a single staffer to trawl through our network’s computers, find any loose and unnecessary copies of the file, and delete them to ensure that kind of privacy breach wouldn’t occur again” said EQC chief executive Ian Simpson. “And what appears to have happened is that she found a copy on one of the computers, which belonged to a colleague of hers, and she deleted it. Now, as it turns out, that was our only copy.”
Less than 24 hours after fronting the media to explain the weekend’s privacy breach, Prime Minister John Key returned to the press room at the Beehive today to answer for this latest error.
“Right, so this is obviously a bit worse” said Key to a room packed with reporters. “But look, all of us, probably in our lives, have deleted a file by mistake or something we’ve been working on by mistake. It does happen, and you know, it is fairly disappointing. I won’t deny that.”
“So are you comparing this data loss to someone accidentally deleting a personal file?” asked One News reporter Jessica Mutch.
“Well, my understanding was that it was accidental” replied Key. “I might be wrong, but that’s the details I have.”
“But this has affected 80,000 people” interjected Mutch.
“Yeah, well, look, it was more than that actually” said Key. “But it was one file deleted by one person. All I can say is that EQC have been dealing with huge amounts of information and hundreds of thousands of client contacts over the last few years, and they’ve had only one mass deletion of their entire insurance database. Now, it’s obviously one too many, but I don’t think we want to blow that out of proportion.”
Asked if homeowners would now have to refile their claims, Key replied “Yeah, well, if they want, sure.”
In the coming weeks, EQC will be taking numerous measures to try and rectify the situation, including making back-up copies of other important data, as well as reaching out to a large number of email contacts in hopes that they were accidentally sent a copy of the lost file.