Hysteria

March 26th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister is demanding answers after ’s “unprecedented” privacy blunder while his Labour counterpart has called for his resignation.

Brownlee said last night he would meet EQC chief executive Ian Simpson and chairman Michael Wintringham this morning to insist on answers.

Brownlee, who found out about the 73,000 extra claimants only at 2.21pm yesterday (the media conference was at 3pm), said the blunder was embarrassing and he had a “lot more to find out”.

“On Friday when we first learned there had been a mishap, it was in the realms of being a forgivable mistake but when you learn that rather than 9700 claims affected it’s more than 80,000, well, that escalates it a little bit further to say the least.” …

Labour earthquake spokeswoman said Brownlee needed to “make an appointment with the Prime Minister and hand in his resignation notice”.

A staff member didn’t notice that his auto-complete function had inserted the wrong recipient name, and sent an attachment to the wrong person.

And Dalziel thinks this is a case for the Minister to resign.

All I can say is that Labour will need a very large caucus if they get into Government, because I expect Ministers will be resigning every week or so based on this new hysterical standard.

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32 Responses to “Hysteria”

  1. BeaB (2,148 comments) says:

    This is becoming ridiculous hysteria over information that is hardly personal and private that went momentarily to the wrong person who notified the mistake and deleted the info.

    These things will always happen and I hope the public service employs some of its highly-paid nabobs to fix their systems so it is harder for mistakes to be made.

    It always amuses me that Labour, friend of the worker, is always the loudest in baying for people to lose their jobs – when it suits.

    Has anyone ever reflected what an incredible job has been done in Christchurch by insurers and others after an unprecedented colossal catastrophe? I am amazed NZ managed to get so many people on the ground so quickly and able to cope with all the complex issues. So some slip up? That’s the problem with using human beings instead of robots!

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  2. b1gdaddynz (279 comments) says:

    When will Labour realise that the electorate is sick of them attacking the person rather than offering anything constructive; I mean they even attack each other instead of coming up with thought out (and budgeted) policy offering any kind of alternative!

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  3. duggledog (1,589 comments) says:

    Dalziel and others like Moroney etc are the precise reason why National continues to hold on to the 45% + territory. I mean who behaves like that? Who says shit like that? Who do they spend their time with? Martyn Bradbury?

    Jesus Christ. They are so out of step with middle New Zealand. Keep going though, fools

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  4. emmess (1,433 comments) says:

    I don’t even think this is should be of interest to more than a handful of people immediately concerned, let alone the whole country.

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  5. mikemikemikemike (331 comments) says:

    It was a mistake – and an easy one to make at that (I’m sure anyone who uses e-mail has done this). Resign? Really? –

    Does anyone else find this kind of thing vomit inducing?

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  6. Chris2 (770 comments) says:

    Dalziel’s utter hypocrisy is that she herself was forced to resign all her Ministerial portfolio’s in 2004 after she was caught out deliberately leaking personal information to TV3 about a Sri Lankan girl’s claim for asylum, and then lying about being the source of the leak.

    At the time she said she did not think she ought to resign, and only did so when Prime Minister Helen Clarke said she had lost confidence in Dalziel.

    The EQC disclosure was accidental, Dalziel’s was deliberately premeditated, and done in an attempt to discredit the teenager’s case for asylum. Worse still, Dalziel was Minister of Immigration at the time.

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  7. scrubone (3,105 comments) says:

    I see someone is loudly proclaiming that EQC are theives, based on them paying out less than one of their other numbers, which I’m guessing was a highball inital estimate for estimating total exposure or something.

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  8. scrubone (3,105 comments) says:

    But isn’t it outrageous that politics isn’t based on calm rationality?

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  9. labrator (1,850 comments) says:

    I feel as though I should be amazed that all that information was in an Excel spreadsheet but I’m not. You run your local bakesale on an excel spreedsheet, you don’t manage EQC’s tens of thousands of claims through one…

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  10. flipper (4,232 comments) says:

    As posted in the GD this morning.
    The transcript of that telephone interview would be worth a look.
    This may open a EQC can of worms hat has little, if anything, to do with privacy:

    ” flipper (1,428) Says:
    March 26th, 2013 at 8:19 am
    What a breath of fresh air ChCh EQC critic (the email fellow) Bryan Staples was on TV One this morning.
    He put down TV’s assertions over the importance of privacy and then shafted, in no uncertain terms, both big Gerry and Dalzeil.

    Wow, marvellous stuff..
    And, for once Christie shut his mouth and let it run…. and it all came out!

    If only we could eliminate the departmental defensive bullshit from all this, we might come to understand why many ChCh folk are still tearing their hair out over EQC.

    It would be too much to hope that politics would have a day off, would it not?

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  11. freedom101 (510 comments) says:

    Keep it up Labour, keep digging. It’s fun to watch. Everyone knows that it’s almost impossible to design a fool-proof system and, secondly, that no harm has actually been done with this leak.

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  12. scrubone (3,105 comments) says:

    labrator: there’s no suggestion they’re using excel to run their operations. Most likely is that the data was extracted for some analysis or other specific purpose.

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  13. mikemikemikemike (331 comments) says:

    @labrator – why not? – would you rather they purchased a dedicated software platform for it? I hear Talent2 have some spare time coming up :)

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  14. tvb (4,518 comments) says:

    This sort of mistake which is so easy to make can have serious consequences. Fortunately the recipient was a responsible person but one of the people seeing the email with the attachment had Lianne Dalziel on the speed dial. Politicisng this matter like that needs to be dealt with by EQC and the recipient organisation. I hope the person who told Dalziel gets sacked.

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  15. slightlyrighty (2,475 comments) says:

    Dalzeils solution is for the EQC to contact all claimaints with a summary of their claim and where it is at..

    for 80000 claims?

    has she any idea how much that would take to do?

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  16. Viking2 (11,575 comments) says:

    Men need preserving from menopausal women. Even Gerry! :lol:

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  17. david (2,564 comments) says:

    I’m with Labrator (11:47am) in thinking that there is something terribly wrong here. Perhaps someone with greater knowledge than me can comment on how big a spreadsheet would need to be to carry details of 80,000 individual claims including such details as EQC’s assessment, property identifiers, settlement figures, independant assessment etc.
    Mr Staples this morning indicated that he had “opened the file’ for a property he was acquainted with and found all sorts of interesting things.

    To my uneducated eye this sounds more like a whole database rather than a spreadsheet. Certainly a file of that size would be blocked by most email systems which have attachment size limits and even with broadband it would take a fair while to transmit.
    It just sounds implausible that this was an accident.

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  18. RRM (10,034 comments) says:

    “We have to get to the bottom of why it is government departments can release sensitive data like this over and over and over,” Shearer said.

    “For heaven’s sake, it’s not difficult.”

    I would be interested to know what e mail system David Shearer uses, that can prevent you from accidentally adding Joe Green to the recipient list when you meant to click on Giuseppe Verdi instead.

    “Surely there are very basic safeguards that would stop this happening (such as) ensuring that a large file like this can’t be sent outside a building,” he said.

    LOL what?
    The ability to easily and quickly send large documents is one of the main, top ten prime reasons why people use e mail…

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  19. Paulus (2,672 comments) says:

    What still puzzles me is that who expanded the file from what was 8,500 claimants to 80,000.
    As a spreadsheet proctologist it not quite that easy to open up a part locked spreadsheet – it requires a good knowledge and some time to do correctly.
    If as the recipient Mr Staples says he opened it to look at one entry then found the whole ??? 8,500 ?? entries why did he play with it ?
    He then states that he did not copy it – but somebody possibly did.

    He says that there were 5 people in the office, one of whom contacted Dalziel.

    From her interview this morning it could be supposed that she has details of the contents. Some of her figures suggest that to answer the way she did that she has more knowledge of it. Will Winston get a copy ?

    I would be very careful about dealing with Mr Staples company in the future as he has questions to answer. Sounds like an Aussie too ? Perhaps he shoud look to his staff as to what he hoped to get contacting Dalziel. Did he/her em her a copy ?

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  20. lastmanstanding (1,304 comments) says:

    Are the joys of email and computers in general. For some of us pale male and stale we look back to the good old days before these wonderous advantages when such errors and mistakes were not possible,

    Similarly we recall dictating a letter to our secretary only to read the draft and hastily amend or even screw it up and file in file 13.

    Alas now with reply and reply buttons such actions are not possible.

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  21. rangitoto (251 comments) says:

    The fact that someone says they deleted it doesn’t mean it was truly deleted. Where I work, all email is archived and a user deleting a message makes no difference to that. I would imagine that most corporate email systems work that way.

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  22. davidp (3,588 comments) says:

    RRM>The ability to easily and quickly send large documents is one of the main, top ten prime reasons why people use e mail…

    There is a technology around called DLP (Data Loss Protection) that will check outgoing e-mail for sensitive information. I don’t have first hand experience with it, but I believe you can configure it to recognise (say) credit card numbers and flag an alert while sending is delayed. It wouldn’t stop all leaks of this type, but it might stop some of them and that’d be better than none.

    The real problem here is with Staples or his company. The leak from EQC was inadvertent. Staples or an associate leaked personal information to the media ON PURPOSE. This is unethical at best. Illegal at worst.

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  23. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    Gerry Brownlee throwing his weight around again…and making matters worse.

    http://www.3news.co.nz/EQC-email-recipient-denies-leaking-details/tabid/1607/articleID/291787/Default.aspx

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  24. labrator (1,850 comments) says:

    labrator: there’s no suggestion they’re using excel to run their operations. Most likely is that the data was extracted for some analysis or other specific purpose.

    Well there certainly is from the very fact that _all_ of the information was in one spreadsheet and only obfuscated through filtering. To extract all of that data from a central database should require sign off at some level that isn’t insignificant. So yes, I think it’s fairly obvious that they’re using Excel for critical parts of their operation far beyond what it should be. People should run reports off a central system to get required data, not extract a whole database and filter it.

    @labrator – why not? – would you rather they purchased a dedicated software platform for it? I hear Talent2 have some spare time coming up

    Gees, you’d think writing software is hard. If you want to use Novopay as an example then we can use any disaster in any industry to write off anything useful whatsoever. Fatal car crashes, don’t use cars, Kursk disaster, no submarines, Wahine, get rid of shipping. This is commodity stuff, Salesforce.com (and others) could do this for a very insignificant figure in comparison to the billions EQC is in charge of and be significantly more powerful, reliable and secure.

    If EQC was actually smart about privacy, they’d ban attachments to emails. There are generally much smarter workflows for big businesses than firing our multiple copies of files which as soon as they leave your corporate eco-system bubble are fair game to all and sundry.

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  25. voice of reason (490 comments) says:

    david (2,270) Says:
    March 26th, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    David – Excel worksheets prior to ver2007 where limited to 65000 lines or so, with Excel2010 you can go past 200k lines if you want. Probably the data that was initially seen was a pivot table and the actual data for that was a hidden worksheet tab. Very simple to hide or unhide a tab.
    The most straightforward method of security for excel files would have been to password lock them. so that even if they were inadvertently emailed out – they couldn’t be opened (easily)

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  26. voice of reason (490 comments) says:

    I heard Ian Simpson saying on TV this am that the reason for using excel was the amount of extra work required due to the on-going nature of the claims caused by so many earthquakes. Specifically to cope with EQC’s policy of apportionment – whereby original claims are then split over 2,3 or more quake events. This is so EQC can reduce the overal pay out on total loss claims.

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  27. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    David, a .xlsx spreadsheet with about 80k lines would be circa. 15Mb I think

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  28. b1gdaddynz (279 comments) says:

    Excel can go up to 1,048,576 lines and 523,461 is 3MB with information the full width of a 19 inch monitor

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  29. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    Yes but if you add in pivot tables reference tables and the like it jumps up so if we meet in the middle somewhere and say 10Mb ish.

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  30. scrubone (3,105 comments) says:

    Well there certainly is from the very fact that _all_ of the information was in one spreadsheet and only obfuscated through filtering. To extract all of that data from a central database should require sign off at some level that isn’t insignificant. So yes, I think it’s fairly obvious that they’re using Excel for critical parts of their operation far beyond what it should be. People should run reports off a central system to get required data, not extract a whole database and filter it.

    I think you have an inflated idea of
    a) what was in this spreadsheet
    b) how much analysis you can or would do from fixed reports and
    c) how much sign-off people usually need to gain read access to an operation’s data.

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  31. labrator (1,850 comments) says:

    a)

    Mr Staples told Radio New Zealand the document contained more than just claimants’ addresses and claim numbers, which EQC said it had contained. It also included estimated settlement costs, the number of settlements EQC expected to make and builders’ quotes.

    b) Who mentioned fixed reports?

    c) Who said read access? This is an excel spreadsheet, that’s an extraction. If you can extract your entire customer database into an Excel spreadsheet and accidentally attach that to an email, there is something really fundementally wrong with your data protection. No business would put up with this but as this is government, alls well that gets an inquiry.

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  32. Reid (16,634 comments) says:

    I think you have an inflated idea of
    a) what was in this spreadsheet
    b) how much analysis you can or would do from fixed reports and
    c) how much sign-off people usually need to gain read access to an operation’s data.

    Apparently according to the recipient on Morning Report this morning, it had every single thing that all the EQC claimants have been demanding to know for simply ages. For example, it had the amount EQC is prepared to pay for each property, the EQC valuations for each property, etc etc etc. So it had quite a lot.

    Regarding how much analysis you can do via a fixed report, in today’s corporate world, it’s simply unwieldy not to use the power of Excel. It’s a heck of a lot more efficient to get a generic extract, write a few formulae and customise the view to the needs of the audience. It not only takes ages but is unnecessarily complex to use the BIS unit to deliver a customised view for anything but regular periodic reports.

    Regarding the sign-off required, the sender’s job title included the word “senior” [something]. Sure lots of people are senior but a great many people in today’s corporates have access to vast amounts of data, you don’t need to be an exec and quite frankly most people couldn’t do their jobs unless they have it.

    A couple of people above allude to a good point: EQC was a tiny backwater before ChCh. Suddenly it needed to ramp up overnight. You don’t build permanent IT systems capable of supporting all of that overnight and it would have been a choice of, either get the job done using whatever means possible, or make people wait till the systems caught up, which would have meant the media AND the politicians would have been on their back for that, if they’d taken that route. This same factor applies to people who think EQC should have SEEMAIL which is the govt’s secure email platform used by Foreign Affairs etc.

    Frankly, needs must has ruled here and why shouldn’t it have. This is a minor issue, the consequence is major only in the minds of the politicians and the media and is that a real major consequence or simply a beat up?

    What it’s going to do, sadly, is make EQC super-triple gunshy over the smallest thing and all the impractical suggestions made above like requiring CEO signoff to get access to a report on the staff kitchen roster will no doubt come into play. Who knows? Maybe EQC will waste spend another $500k on a big six report who will provide the dummies guide on how to manage secure communications.

    But at the end of the day, who cares? It’s a shame no-one in the media except perhaps Fran O’Sullivan and a few NBR journos have the commercial nous to call bullshit on this idiotic hysteria break-out which will, guarantee it, happen again, somewhere else.

    So everyone will run around saluting and grovelling to the Minister at how embawessing this was and how it will never ever happen again ever never and we’re so, so sorry. I’d almost guarantee Iain Rennie’s already fired off an email reminding all the CEO’s of all the depts how vital and critical it is that they never ever let this happen at all, ever, in their respective organisations.

    Talk about waste of time and OUR money, for little to no purpose but to pwotect the pwecious Minister.

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