Privacy Commissioner launches investigation of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada breach of student loan recipient information

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The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) announced today that it is launching an investigation into a breach involving the personal information about more than half a million clients of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) and 250 departmental employees.

The OPC was informed by HRSDC of the disappearance of an external hard drive containing personal information and financially related data of approximately 583,000 clients of the Canada Student Loans Program and 250 HRSDC employees. Upon receiving this notification, the Assistant Commissioner determined that there are reasonable grounds for a commissioner-initiated complaint against HRSDC to ascertain whether there has been a contravention of the Privacy Act. The Privacy Act stipulates that the Commissioner has the authority under subsection 29(3) to investigate a matter under the Act where she is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to do so.

The law empowers the Commissioner to launch an investigation in cases where she believes there is a serious possibility that an investigation would disclose a contravention of the Privacy Act.

The OPC is mandated by Parliament to act as an ombudsman, advocate and guardian of privacy rights of Canada. The OPC has a number of resources available on its web site to help individuals protect their personal information, and a section specifically about “Identity Theft” that includes frequently asked questions and fact sheets entitled Protecting your personal information and Identity Theft: What it is and what you can do about it.

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