CORNER BROOK — If you’re like Jordan Stringer, you’ve likely spent much of the last week coming to terms with the latest privacy breach at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.
Stringer was one of the 583,000 Canadians who’s personal information was compromised when a hard drive containing student loan information went missing from an office in Gatineau, Que. The files included social insurance numbers, loan balances, student names and contact information of students who took loans from 2000-2006.
Banking and medical information wasn’t included in the device.
The federal government announced the privacy breach this week and is now sending letters to students who’s information was compromised. A toll-free number has also been set up for citizens who wish to inquire if they are included in the breach.
The loss of the hard drive was discovered in November as the government investigated the loss of a USB key which contained personal information of over 5,000 Canadians.
Stringer attended university from 1999-2005. so he admits he was concerned when news of the missing hard drive spread last week.
Given an apology
After calling the toll-free number and waiting for approximately 20 minutes, Stringer was told he indeed was one of the students impacted by the breach.
He was given an apology and told his banking information wasn’t compromised, but said he’s still concerned and somewhat jarred by the news.
“It’s a helpless, nasty feeling,” Stringer said. “You put your trust in a large organization and obviously that’s gone out the window now.”
The Corner Brook resident said virtually anyone he’s spoken with who took loans during the time frame in question were similarly impacted.
Although the federal government has announced tightened security measures in the wake of the latest privacy incident, including banning portable hard drives within the human resources department and new data-loss prevention technology, Stringer said it’s simply not enough.
He said he is considering joining a class action lawsuit spearheaded by St. John’s lawyer Bob Buckingham and fears the loss of personal information is the result of the federal government’s austerity measures which has slashed jobs across the country in an effort to streamline government services.
“We all know resources have been cut over the last few years and if you do that, this kind of crap is going to happen,” he said. “The less people and resources you have to keep things secure, eventually the consequences are going to be negative.”
Meanwhile Robert Leamon, president of the Grenfell Campus Student Union, said his office was busy last week fielding questions from students wondering if they have had their privacy breached.
“People have a lot of concerns about being forced to put their information in this system and them potentially, to have it go missing,” Leamon said. “To see this information compromised on such a large scale, that’s pretty troubling.”
For Leamon, the real concern is the fact so many Canadians require student loans for their studies. He said a solution to future incidents could be finding away so that fewer Canadians need to rely on the loan system.
“Students are already burdened with debt, so now to burden them with the potential of having their personal information go missing, that’s pretty scary.”
To find out if you’ve one of the students impacted by the breach, phone 1-866-885-1866.