A massive data leak has led to the unfortunate sharing of information about over 14,000 people living with HIV in Singapore.
According to USA Today, there has been a large leak of personal data in the Asian city-state. Information including identification numbers, contact details, and information about 2,400 of their contacts have been spread online.
It appears that 5,4000 Singaporeans diagnosed with HIV before January 2013 and 8,800 foreigners diagnosed before December 2011 have been compromised by this leak.
On Monday (January 28), the Ministry of Health started calling Singaporean people living with HIV. The ministry also released a statement to address this leak.
“We are sorry for the anxiety and distress caused by this incident. Our priority is the wellbeing of the affected individuals. Since 26 January, we have been progressively contacting the individuals to notify them and render assistance,” the statement said.
“On 22 January, MOH was notified by the Police that confidential information from MOH’s HIV Registry may have been disclosed by an unauthorised person. MOH made a Police report on 23 January. On 24 January, MOH ascertained that the information matched the HIV Registry’s records up to January 2013.From 24 to 25 January, MOH worked with the relevant parties to disable access to the information.”
CNN reports that LGBTQ support organization Oogachaga has condemned the health ministry for this leak. Charity spokesperson Leow Yangfa states how concerned the organization is for people living with HIV who have not disclosed their status to family, friends, employers and more. Their lives may be wrongfully harmed by this leak.
"This reminds us of the insufferable stigma, fear and discrimination that continues to surround people living with HIV in Singapore today," Yangfa said. "Those of us who live without HIV cannot begin to imagine the shock, distress, pain and betrayal they must be going through right now."
NBC News reports that the unauthorized man who obtained the information and shared it online is Mikhy K. Farrera Brochez. Brochez got access to the information through his partner Ler Teck Siang. Siang is a Singaporean doctor who headed the ministry’s National Public Health Unit from March 2012 to May 2013.
The ministry discovered that Brochez had obtained the confidential records in 2016, and reported it to police. Both Brochez and Ler’s properties were searched and “all relevant material found were seized and secured by the police,” it said.
The ministry was then notified last Tuesday that Brochez may be in possession of more leaked information. They insist that they have incorporated more safeguards to prevent any more leaks.