OTTAWA -- Two weeks after admitting it lost personal information of 583,000 student-loan clients, the federal government has agreed to pay for six years of credit protection for the victims.
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley made the announcement Friday afternoon, although she noted there is no evidence the information has been used for fraudulent activity.
"I want to reassure Canadians that we are serious about protecting their personal information," Finley said in a news release. "That is why we will provide potentially affected individuals with credit protection at no cost, which will flag their credit files and help detect any potential compromise of their personal information."
The information was compromised when an employee lost a portable hard drive containing the names, birth dates, addresses, social insurance numbers and outstanding loan amounts of 583,000 Canada Student Loan clients. The hard drive had been stored in a filing cabinet when the employee noticed it was no longer there.
The loss was only identified by management during the investigation of another privacy breach -- the loss of similar information of disability-pension applicants that was stored on a USB memory stick.
The information belonged to student-loan clients who had loans from Human Resources and Social Development Canada between 2000 and 2006 in all provinces and territories but Quebec, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
To get the credit protection, people need to call the HRSDC call centre, 1-866-885-1866, and agree to let Canada pass their information to Equifax, consumer credit-reporting agency.
A Manitoba woman whose information was on the hard drive said the latest development doesn't give her much comfort.
"I feel like they are in damage-control mode," she said.
At least three class-action lawsuits have been started on behalf of clients whose information was lost.
The RCMP and the federal privacy commissioner are also investigating.