June 19th, 2024

Canada, U.K. privacy officials launch joint investigation into 23andMe data breach

By The Canadian Press on June 10, 2024.

Privacy Commissioner of Canada Philippe Dufresne participates in a news conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa, on February 29, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

OTTAWA – Canada’s privacy commissioner is teaming up with his U.K. counterpart to investigate a data breach discovered last year at 23andMe.

Philippe Dufresne’s office says the joint investigation with U.K. Information Commissioner John Edwards will aim to determine the scope of the October 2023 breach at the direct-to-consumer genetic testing company.

They will also look into whether 23andMe had proper safeguards to protect the highly sensitive information it handled and whether the company adequately notified regulators and affected individuals about the breach.

Dufresne’s office says it will work closely with counterparts in Quebec, B.C. and Alberta to carry out the Canadian portion of the investigation and will not be commenting further.

23andMe is best known for selling testing kits that take a small saliva sample to uncover genetic information about customers, including details about their health, ethnicity and biological relationships.

The company told media outlets last December that roughly 6.9 million 23andMe customers had their data compromised in a breach.

“In the wrong hands, an individual’s genetic information could be misused for surveillance or discrimination,” Dufresne says in a news release.

“Ensuring that personal information is adequately protected against attacks by malicious actors is an important focus for privacy authorities in Canada and around the world.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2023.

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