OUR VIEW: Lost hard drive raises question of why government collects this data in first place

Only time will tell how this will affect people, and how many, if any, will become victims of identity theft and fraud as a result.

Surrey MLA Amrik Virk is B.C.’s minister of technology.

“I have nothing to suggest the data has fallen into the wrong hands.”

That’s what Surrey MLA Amrik Virk, B.C.’s minister of technology, innovation and citizens’ services had to say to reporters this week after it was revealed the government lost an unencrypted back-up hard drive that contains the personal education information of 3.4 million people who attended school in B.C. between 1986 and 2009.

The minister, of course, is incorrect. The data clearly did end up in the wrong hands: Those of the Liberal government.

Only time will tell how this boo-boo of legendary proportions will affect people, and how many, if any, will become victims of identity theft and fraud as a result.

The government thinks that risk is low as the data did not contain banking information, social insurance numbers or drivers license numbers. But some records also contain personal education numbers, birth dates, home addresses and information concerning “family problems.”

Jim Iker, president of the BC Teachers Federation, notes the lost data contains mental health information, exam marks, special education designations, foundation skills assessments results and very sensitive data on children in care. All this is now at risk.

This breach of security raises the question why the government is collecting all this data in the first place.

Iker rightly asks, “at what point do students get the right to be forgotten? Why is a 35-year-old today worried about her or his privacy being violated from student records collected 25 years ago?”

Iker noted the government wants to expand data collection and access to data through MyEducationBC.

“We have huge concerns about that,” he said.

So do we.

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