They are questions more than 580,000 Canadians are now asking themselves: why was their personal information contained on a portable hard drive and how was that hard drive lost?
This week, Canadians who received a student loan between 2000 and 2006 were left scrambling trying to find out if they were one of the unfortunate 583,000 people whose personal information was on a portable hard drive that had been lost, apparently, two months ago.
Although the federal government has known the entire time that this personal and confidential information that we, as Canadians, thought was safe had been somehow misplaced by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, those impacted, unfortunately, didn’t get the memo until the past week or so.
And there are some who still don’t know if they are on the list of those whose information, including address, date of birth and social insurance number, has been lost.
It’s a massive privacy breach and one that could ultimately pit Canadians against their government.
Already, there have been two class-action suits filed and undoubtedly there could be more to come.
The entire situation has many fuming and disgusted with the lack of regard for their privacy and the safety of their personal information.
Just why was such delicate information contained on a hard drive? Why would there be a need to take this information out of the confines of the Human Resources Canada office where it had been contained?
The missing files include student names, social insurance numbers, dates of birth, contact information and loan balances of borrowers who borrowed for their education through the Canada Student Loan Program.
The only certainty is that borrowers from Quebec, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, who received a Canada Student Loan during the noted time period, are not affected.
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley has come out to say that only the student-loan borrowers’ information was on this portable hard drive, that it contained no names of spouses or co-signers.
That is little consolation to the affected left to their own devices to ensure they are protected against credit fraud and left trying to figure out what they can do to safeguard themselves.
There still has been no answer as to why, if this hard drive had gone missing from an office in Gatineau, Que., more than two months ago, which was when an employee discovered this external hard drive missing, wasn’t the public informed right away?
Did our government think that some honest Canadian or whoever found it would be a good scout and pass it in?
The RCMP and the privacy watchdog are now investigating and rightfully so.
The only thing that can be said for this entire situation is that it is a mess, that, sorry, Diane Finley and the Government of Canada, the loss of your citizen’s private information is not OK.