Calgary Slow to Realize Student Data Security Breach

By: Gary Parkinson on February 2, 2013

Thousands of Canadians have united against the federal government after it lost a hard drive containing the personal information of nearly 600,000 former post-secondary students.  However, the news didn’t seem to reach Calgary, where residents were shocked to learn that their information could be exposed – including the lawyers who are representing former students in class action lawsuits against Ottawa.

The government lost an external hard drive containing student loan balances, social insurance numbers, and personal addresses at the beginning of November.  However, the government waited until January to reveal the security breach to both the RCMP and the Canadian public at large.  The lack of transparency has angered former students whose information could be exposed.  Scammers, after all, could use the stolen data to obtain credit cards, acquire bank or mortgage loans, or even to apply for a passport.

The security breach sparked lawsuits in cities across the country, but a notable exception appears to be Calgary.  Many residents only learned about the details this week on social media feeds like Facebook and Twitter.  Terrilynn Emberly went to school on the East Coast, but has since relocated to Calgary, and only found out about the lost data through a friend online.  Terrilynn quickly joined fellow citizens in a lawsuit against the government.

I just honestly want peace of mind.  I want them to take stronger action to protect everybody’s information going forward.”

However, four of Calgary’s most commendable lawyers at the JSS Barristers firm were themselves stunned to learn that their own information was contained on the lost data drive.  The firm submitted its own lawsuit on behalf of Calgary residents on January 24, and this new development is likely to make the case very personal for representatives on the legal team.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, head of the department that lost the data, has been summoned to appear before a parliamentary committee to explain the government’s actions.  Finley has yet to reveal if she will appear, stating only that those responsible will be dealt with appropriately.