Privacy incident

On April 27, a third-party records storage service provider confirmed to Canadian Blood Services that it could not locate two boxes of paper records of donation in its facility. The service provider has conducted searches of its premises, but its efforts to locate the missing boxes have been unsuccessful. Canadian Blood Services has no indication of any unauthorized access or misuse of the information contained in the missing boxes, and is notifying impacted people as required by law.

The missing boxes contain completed donation records, which are the health screening questionnaires used to assess whether someone can donate. They contain personal health information for 2,652 individuals who made or attempted to make whole blood, plasma or platelet donations at Canadian Blood Services donation events in southern Alberta between June 14 and 19, 2006, and between Sept. 4 and 8, 2008. Canadian Blood Services believes it is likely that these records are still located within the storage facility and, given the circumstance, that it is unlikely that this information would be used for identity theft. Given its commitment to the privacy of donors, Canadian Blood Services is focused on ensuring all proper notifications. 

Frequently asked questions

Is my information at risk?
Only some of the people who donated in 2006 and 2008 in the southern Alberta area are impacted, and they are being notified via letter. (See below for specific donation event dates.)
We have no indication of any unauthorized access or misuse of the donation records in question.

How will I know if my information is at risk?
Impacted donors will be contacted directly via letter. 

What type of information is contained in the missing boxes?
Records of donation may include the following personal health information: 

  • Donor name
  • Donor identification number
  • Address
  • Telephone number
  • Date of birth
  • Sex assigned at birth
  • Date and location of the donation event
  • Blood type
  • Blood pressure
  • Pulse and hemoglobin readings
  • Donation bleed time
  • Donation deferral status
  • Responses to health and medical history questions relating to illness, medication, travel history, infectious disease, and other risk factors such as sexual activity and illegal drug use

Why do you keep records?
Canadian Blood Services is required by law to retain blood donation records for individuals who make, or who attempt to make, a blood donation in accordance with the Blood Regulations under the federal Food and Drugs Act.
Canadian Blood Services keeps records of donation for 10 years. This is for the benefit of donors and patients if we have to trace a particular unit of donation. 

Why are records kept by a record storage service provider?
It is common practice to store these records offsite, both for logistical and practical reasons.

Is my information safe?
Only individuals who made, or attempted to make, whole blood, plasma or platelet donations at Canadian Blood Services’ clinics in southern Alberta between June 14 and 19, 2006 and between Sept. 4 and 8, 2008 are impacted.

We have no indication of any unauthorized access or misuse of the paper donation records. We believe, but cannot confirm, that the missing records are misplaced within our records storage service provider’s facility.

Is any of this putting patients at risk?
No. The safety of patients has not been compromised and remains our top priority.

What are you doing to prevent this from happening again?
Since July 2016, donor health information has been collected and stored electronically. The digitization of our process has significantly reduced the risk of this type of this type of incident from occurring, and implemented safeguards to ensure the protection of information gathered electronically through the donation process. 

In addition, in the wake of this incident, Canadian Blood Services is reviewing its internal policies related to the storage of its records and, where necessary, making appropriate enhancements.

We are revisiting our records retention policies to ensure that information is being kept no longer than necessary for legal and regulatory requirements. For example, we are currently exploring the feasibility of reducing the storage period to 5 years, which would further reduce the risk that information be misplaced while maintaining our ability to put patient safety first.

We are also working with our third-party storage companies to ensure measures are put in place to avoid situations like this in the future. On an annual basis, we will reconcile the inventory of boxes held at each service provider location to ensure it is accurate and complete. We will also review our process for auditing offsite storage providers.

How do you know that the boxes only contained records of donation?
We have a standard operating procedure that dictates that we are to pack only records of donation together by collection event date.

We also maintain detailed lists of collection event dates and codes for each box of records of donation sent to storage. Using these lists, we were able to identify the individuals who attended the collection events and would likely have completed a record of donation.