Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Suit launched over loss of personal data

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One of the biggest losses of personal data the federal government has ever seen is now the subject of a class action lawsuit.

Last week, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada officials admitted a hard drive was missing containing personal information on 583,000 Canadians who had loans with the Canada Student Loans program between 2000 and 2006.

The information included names, birthdates, social insurance numbers, addresses and loan balances, which together could be used to steal identities or access personal accounts.

Bob Buckingham, a lawyer in St. John's, N.L., has launched a class action lawsuit on behalf of the people whose information was on the hard drive. Buckingham has already received thousands of calls from affected persons.

Several people told the Free Press this week they were concerned about the cost of trying to protect themselves now that their personal information may have been stolen. Many do, or plan to, pay fees to banks and credit companies to watch their accounts for signs of illegal activity, and think the government should pick up the tab.

So does Rodger Cuzner, the Liberal Human Resources critic.

"This is simply unacceptable," he wrote in a letter to HRSDC Minister Diane Finley Thursday.

"Canadians should not have to pay for the mistakes of this government."

A staff member in Gatineau, Que., noticed the hard drive was missing from a filing cabinet in early November, but it took nearly two months for HRSDC to admit it publicly. It set up a toll-free phone line for people to call to see if they were among the victims and are trying to write letters to all 583,000 people, although finding current addresses is proving to be a challenge.

If you had a Canada student loan between 2000 and 2006, you can call 1-866-885-1866 to see if you're affected.

For more information on the class action lawsuit, visit www.buckinghamlaw.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2013 A9

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