Government launches review, info line after student records missing

Review launched after missing hard drive with years of private student information "misplaced"

  • Sep. 22, 2015 12:00 p.m.

The Office of the Chief Information Officer will review the management of personal information by government ministries in the wake of a misplaced backup hard drive containing B.C. and Yukon student information from 1986 to 2009.

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.

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

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

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

All files related to student records are still with the government under

standard data security processes on a backup hard drive.