Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Data breach has Manitobans fearful

-- Worried that scammers may strike years later -- Ottawa's measures so far unsatisfactory

  • Print

OTTAWA -- Manitobans whose personal data were on a hard drive the federal government lost last fall fear it could be years before they will feel comfortable their identities won't be stolen.

The RCMP and the federal privacy commissioner are both investigating the missing hard drive, which was discovered missing by staff at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada last November. The hard drive contained the names, birth dates, addresses, social insurance numbers and student-loan balances of 583,000 people who had loans through the Canada Student Loans Program between 2000 and 2006.

"How does something like this even happen?" asked Angela.

"I expect the government of all places would definitely have measures in place to prevent this."

Angela, 34, didn't want her full name used in the newspaper. Neither did Erin, also 34, who said her fear is someone could hang on to this information for years before trying to use it to hack bank accounts or set up false credit cards or get other identification.

"This could be years and years that this affects me," she said.

Neither found the information provided via a toll-free line set up for people to call particularly helpful or reassuring.

Erin said she got through quite quickly -- which surprised her -- but all the person on the phone did was tell her she'd be getting a letter with information on how to protect herself.

"Which is a little ironic, because I did protect my information, (it's the government which) didn't."

The hard drive was discovered missing from an office in Gatineau, Que, on Nov. 5 by an employee who had stored it in a filing cabinet. Management was not informed until Nov. 22. A detailed analysis of the files on the hard drive was completed Dec. 6. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner was notified on Dec. 14. HRSDC Minister Diane Finley called in the RCMP on Jan. 7. The news was made public Jan. 11 and the toll-free line set up Jan. 14.

A spokeswoman for the department said the delay in informing the police and the public came because search efforts were underway trying to find the hard drive, and then to determine who was affected.

In a statement Jan. 11, Finley called this an "unacceptable and avoidable incident."

It is the second time in a month her department has had to admit it lost people's personal information. Last month, it was a USB stick containing the names, social insurance numbers, medical records, birthdates, education levels, occupations and disability payments information of 5,000 clients who had applied for disability pensions.

Anne-Marie Hayden, director of communications for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, said the commissioner is investigating both breaches and likely will report on the findings in her annual report to Parliament. She said there is no set time frame for an investigation but last year, the average investigation took about seven months.

Both Erin and Angela said they think the government should do more to compensate people for time and energy spent trying to keep themselves protected now. Angela said, for example, it cost her two hours of time and $5.25 to get her bank and the credit rating companies to mark her file with a notation.

"I shouldn't have to pay for a mistake the government made," she said, noting it's not a lot of money, it's the principle of the matter.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 16, 2013 A4

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


I Dream of Diesel at Rachel Brown Theatre scene preview

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • June 24, 2012 - 120624  -  Amusement riders on the last day of The Ex Sunday June 24, 2012.    John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local/Standup- BABY BISON. Fort Whyte Centre's newest mother gently nudges her 50 pound, female bull calf awake. Calf born yesterday. 25 now in herd. Four more calfs are expected over the next four weeks. It is the bison's second calf. June 7, 2002.

View More Gallery Photos


Do you agree with the sale of the Canadian Wheat Board to foreign companies?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google