On Thursday, Gov. Mike Dunleavy ordered an investigation after the state shared individuals’ personal information with Anchorage’s municipal government without authorization, the governor’s office said.
People working on behalf of Anchorage’s government contacted individuals about COVID-19 vaccine information, according to the governor’s office. The municipality received the names and contact information from state Department of Health and Social Services staff, the office said.
In a statement Thursday evening, Katie Scovic, spokeswoman for the municipality said the investigation announcement came as a surprise.
“DHSS shared contact information with the Municipality of Anchorage and encouraged us to contact residents with educational information about how to access a vaccine if they were interested,” she said.
Scovic added that the city is committed to helping anyone who wants a vaccine to get one, but that vaccinations will never be mandatory. Already more than half of eligible Anchorage residents have received their first dose.
Dunleavy directed the state Department of Law to investigate whether the unauthorized data sharing violated the law. The governor’s office said that while the state and city health departments have a data-sharing agreement, this information was not shared through that channel.
Dunleavy also directed state Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum to conduct an internal review of all data-sharing agreements.
Dunleavy said that while the data shared appears to be limited, he apologized to any Alaskan affected.
“Alaskans value their right to privacy, especially sensitive health information, and they have a right to know how that information may or may not be used,” he said in a news release.
He said the Department of Law will report back after the investigation with new policies to prevent this from happening again.
This story has been updated to include a statement from Municipality of Anchorage spokesperson Katie Scovic.
Alaska Public Media’s Kavitha George contributed to this report.