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Province of British Columbia
NEWS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
2015MTICS0026-001575
Sept. 22, 2015
Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizens' Services
Government launches review, info line after backup hard drive misplaced

VICTORIA – Management of personal information by government ministries will be reviewed by the Office of the Chief Information Officer in the wake of a misplaced backup hard drive containing B.C. and Yukon student information from 1986 to 2009.

Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services Minister Amrik Virk has announced the review today to ensure government is doing everything possible to protect personal information and prevent privacy breaches.

The issue of the backup drives and their content was discovered during a complete records review undertaken by the Ministry of Education to ensure it was in compliance with data-storage standards. The Ministry of Education did extensive physical and electronic searches but was unable to locate a Western Digital external hard drive that was one of two backups the ministry created in 2011.

Virk also announced that the Service BC info line is able to help British Columbians and others find out if their information is likely on the drive, and what sort of information it would be.

When they contact Service BC, people should be able to note when they attended K-12 or post-secondary school in British Columbia. The contact centre is open Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached by calling:

  • Victoria: 250 387-6121
  • Vancouver: 604 660-2421
  • Elsewhere in B.C.: 1 800 663-7867
  • Yukon residents can call 0 and ask to place a collect call to 604 660-2421

Government has no indication that data from the missing hard drive has been accessed or used. The risk to individuals is thought to be low because the data on the missing hard drive does not contain financial or banking information, social insurance numbers or driver’s licence numbers. As well, the data is at least six years old and up to 30 years old.

In total, the missing hard drive contains about 3.4 million education records tied to individuals between 1986 and 2009, and includes their names, postal codes, grades and personal education numbers.

There are also a smaller number of records in files that include more sensitive personal information, such as:

  • 825 survey results from 2003 of teachers aged 53 or older on their retirement plans.
  • 1,052 personal education numbers, birth years, and grad dates for cancer survivors from a study on their education outcomes.
  • 9,273 personal education numbers connected to children in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development before 2006-07, including information such as health and behaviour issues and supervision status.

This sensitive information could be connected to names by comparing the personal education numbers to names through the larger data file. Full details on the data on the missing hard drive are online at: http://bit.ly/1YzSt9p

It is important to note that the hard drives were backups. All files related to student records are still with the government under standard data security processes.

Quote:

Amrik Virk, Minister of Technology, Innovation, Citizen Services ─

“British Columbians expect us to ensure their information is safe – and this is an incident that should have never happened. I have directed the province’s chief information officer to undertake a review to make sure that our privacy protection policies and procedures are as robust as they possibly can be. The Ministry of Education will be the first ministry to be examined as part of this cross-government review. British Columbians deserve the highest standards of information management.”

Learn More:

Frequently Asked Questions about Potential Identity Theft: http://www.cio.gov.bc.ca/local/cio/priv_leg/documents/foippa/IDtheftFAQ.pdf

 
Media Contact:
 
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services
250 387-3134
 

 
Connect with the Province of B.C. at: www.gov.bc.ca/connect