The Department of Human Resources and Skill Development Canada announced on Jan. 16 that they had lost a portable hard drive containing the data of 583,000 Canadians who took out student loans between 2000–06.
The lost data of Canadian Student Loans Program clients include social insurance numbers, contact information, dates of birth and loan balances. The personal information of 250 HRSDC employees was also on the missing drive.
So far, there is no evidence that any of the information has leaked. The HRSDC and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are currently working together to find the drive.
The HRSDC is trying to contact all borrowers whose personal information was compromised.
The loss does not affect borrowers from Quebec, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. None of the missing data contain medical and banking information, or the personal information of co-signers.
The loss was discovered during a separate HRSDC investigation involving a lost USB drive that contained the personal information of 5,000 Canadians.
In light of the case, several class-action lawsuits have been filed against the HRSDC. Lawyer Bob Buckingham has launched a class-action lawsuit representing all borrowers whose data have been jeopardized. In a press release, Buckingham called the loss “the largest breach of Canadians’ private information by a federal department known to date.”
According to Buckingham, some clients have felt that the HRSDC’s response has been inadequate.
University of Calgary associate vice-provost of enrolment and registrar David Johnston said the university has received little information about the stolen data.
“While it’s possible that U of C students were on the list, we have not received any information from the federal government,” said Johnston. “We’re out of the loop at this time.”