“The information you provide in your job application form will be treated confidentially at all times and will only be disclosed to personnel involved in the recruitment process.”
– “CONFIDENTIAL: Judicial and Legal Services Commission Employment Application,”
Cayman Islands government
Whenever an individual or business provides information to Cayman’s government, often under compulsion – it could be for the purposes of immigration, economic data collection, health statistics, licensing, etc. – officials promise that they will keep any confidential information, confidential.
Is that so … How is it, then, that we at the Cayman Compass have in our possession a pair of 20-page documents that are full of highly confidential information about the two newly appointed acting judges in the Cayman Islands Grand Court?
The short answer is: The government sent it to us.
At around 12:30 p.m. Friday, Commissions Secretariat Manager Deborah Bodden, on behalf of Governor Helen Kilpatrick, disseminated an email announcing the appointments of veteran British attorney Raj Parker and Bermuda’s Chief Justice Ian Kawaley as judges in the Grand Court’s Financial Services Division.
The email included three attachments. One was the “official” news release. The other two were the “CONFIDENTIAL” employment applications filled out by Mr. Parker and Chief Justice Kawaley, along with the supporting documentation.
The judge’s information “leaked” by Ms. Bodden, apparently by accident, includes the following:
- Home, cell and work phone numbers
- Email addresses
- Street addresses
- Work history
- Dates of birth
- Names of spouses and dependents
- Immigration information
- Explicit salary information
- Employment history
- Criminal/disciplinary history
- Academic records
- Personal statements; and,
- Names and contact information for professional references.
We at the Compass won’t be publishing any of the above information because it has limited value to the public interest, not nearly enough to justify the concomitant invasion of privacy of the two men. But if we wanted to publish the details, we certainly could. The government sent us the information, so we are under no legal obligation not to use it.
About five minutes after the email with the personal information went out, we received a second notice, saying that Ms. Bodden “would like to recall the message,” then two minutes later, another email, asking us to “please delete the previous email you have received as the attachments were sent in error. They are not to be used or distributed.”
Later in the afternoon, we received a phone call from a Government Information Services employee, apparently drafted into “damage control duty,” also asking us to delete the email.
Sorry, that’s not how it works. Such remediation efforts carry no authority whatsoever, and basically amount to a nice way of pleading, “Please don’t tell anyone what we did.”
The problem with not telling what someone did is there are no consequences for having done it.
We are voluntarily refraining from publishing the judges’ personal information, but that’s just us. We presume the email was also sent to other media organizations (perhaps not just in Cayman), who may not adhere to the same ethical and news standards as the Compass. We have no idea, and no control over, what they might do.
This latest “error” is not the government’s first display of carelessness or recklessness in sharing what should be confidential information.
Consider the Department of Immigration’s distribution of detailed information on all work permit holders in February 2015. That government gaffe impelled private sector companies to file a very costly (six-figure) lawsuit against the government to protect the legitimate privacy of their personnel records.
Or the granddaddy of all “accidental leaks,” the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service’s sending out of “Gold Command minutes” in July 2007, which would become central to the legal fallout from Operation Tempura.
And that’s just to the media. Who knows how much sensitive information government officials leak to people who they think won’t turn around and share it with the greater public?
That’s a huge problem in a country whose financial services sector (and the greater economy) is predicated on the assumption that we understand how to maintain appropriate levels of confidentiality.