Jan. 24, 2013 - Issue #901: Children can’t choose
Student loan stress
The thing with giving your private information to the government is you expect them not to leave it lying around in an external hard drive, unencrypted and unsecure.
I don't know, something about how access to something as small as a Social Insurance Number can lead to something as big as a stolen identity makes me wary of just handing that number out to anybody. But as a student-loan borrower up until 2006, I am one of the 583 000 people whose private information—including address, date of birth and loan balances—the government "lost" in November 2012 and told us about two months later.
Except they didn't tell me. I had to call Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) to find out. They said sorry, and that they're putting in measures to make sure it never happens again. Like how on January 11, the day the story broke, they banned all portable hard drives and unencrypted USBs. That should have been a no-brainer a long time ago. And sorry isn't good enough. Half a million people who trusted you with private information don't want a sorry, we want recompense. Starting with paying for all the credit checks that will have to be done routinely to make sure no one is pretending to be us and ending with writing off the balances for the loans of everyone the government treated with such ill regard. Compensation needs to be given for this huge breach of trust. Maybe the government will learn to be more responsible with private information if they have to forgive the student loans of the 583 000 people affected. And the 250 government employees in that mix who had their information on the same hard drive are probably not too happy either and will be looking for their own payoff.
HRSDC is trying to save face by saying that at least no banking or medical information was lost, but this isn't an all-or-nothing situation. Just because all of a person's private information wasn't lost doesn't mean that what was is somehow less important. Maybe it was just human error and someone threw the external hard drive away that they found in the filing cabinet, but the point is that the information was stored where it shouldn't have been stored and now it's lost.
It's also ridiculous that this information was reported missing on November 5 from an office in Quebec, but security wasn't even notified until November 28, the RCMP were called on January 7 and the public was told on a Friday afternoon, four days later. Friday press releases all mean the same thing: we know we have to get this information out there, but hopefully after the weekend it will blow over.
Well this one isn't going to blow over. Two class-action lawsuits have been filed against the government already and 583 000 people and their supporters are ready to see justice served. V
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