Published online at Edmonton.Ctvnews.ca on Jan. 18, 2013.
Linda Hoang, CTV Edmonton: January 18, 2013
Edmontonian affected by privacy breach speaks out, third lawsuit launched
The federal government is facing a third class-action lawsuit over a privacy breach involving more than a half-million Canadian student loan borrowers, including Edmontonians.
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada announced last week that it had lost a hard drive containing the personal information of 583,000 people who had taken out a student loan between 2000 and 2006.
The hard drive was lost in November, but the department waited two months before announcing that the files, which include student names, social insurance numbers, dates of birth and contact information, had gone missing.
Angie McConnell, of Edmonton, is one of the hundreds of thousands of Canadians affected.
“My information was lost by the federal government. They have lost my SIN, my first name, last name, birth date, my address and how much money my federal student loan was worth,” McConnell told CTV News on Friday.
“It’s gone. They don’t know why, they don’t know where, they don’t know if it was stolen, they don’t know if somebody misplaced the drive, but it’s gone.”
McConnell says she’s concerned about her privacy and frustrated over how the government is handling the breach.
“They’re not providing enough information and not just that but I’m worried about somebody stealing my identity. They told me to watch my bank account, that’s pretty much all they said,” McConnell said.
“It’s extremely scary to not know where your information is at, who could have it and what they could be doing with it.”
The government said there is no evidence at this time that any information has been accssed or used for fraudulent purposes.
The missing files did not include banking or medical information.
Student loan borrowers from Quebec, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories are not affected.
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada is sending letters to those who are affected by the privacy breach.
The toll-free number 1-866-885-1866 has also been set up for Canadians to verify if they are affected.
RCMP have been called in to investigate the breach.
Meanwhile any lawsuits will need to be certified by a court before they can proceed.
The law firms of Sutts, Strosberg LLP, Branch MacMaster LLP and Falconer Charney LLP are seeking $600 million in compensation on behalf of those affected by the loss of the hard drive.
“We are shocked that the government of Canada has known about this breach of privacy for so long without revealing to the country what happened,” Falconer Charney lawyer Ted Charney said in a statement.
The department would not comment on the lawsuits.
“Should litigation be formally commenced, the Department (of) Justice will respond on behalf of HRSDC,” a spokesperson said in an email.
With files from The Canadian Press