No accountability for lost government hard drive

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John Horgan Leader of the B.C. New Democrats
John Horgan Leader, BC New Democrats
John Horgan
Leader, BC New Democrats

By John Horgan, B.C. New Democrat leader and the MLA for Juan de Fuca

Victoria: The loss of sensitive and personal information of millions of B.C. people is a serious issue.

Unfortunately, the B.C. Liberal government isn’t taking it seriously, even though the safety and privacy of more than 3.4 million people has been put at risk.

The government recently admitted they stored highly personal information about 3.4 million people – many of them children – on an unencrypted hard drive. Information like whether a child had a special needs designation or if a student applied for a student loan.

Instead of safeguarding this information, it was compiled on to a hard drive with no password protection, stored in a warehouse, then lost.

This is the largest breach of personal information in B.C.’s history and it is something the government should be taking very seriously.

New Democrats asked the minister responsible, Amrik Virk, to explain how the B.C. Liberal government could be so careless with such important and sensitive information.

Not only did Minister Virk have no explanation for how the B.C. Liberals lost the personal information of millions of British Columbians, but he wouldn’t acknowledge the potential risks that this lost information poses for B.C. families.

Worse still, another member of the B.C. Liberal government refused to even admit that the hard drive was missing – the minister for advanced education had stated that the hard drive was simply “misplaced.”

Government staff spent weeks searching the warehouse for the missing hard drive without success. To suggest that it was simply “misplaced” shows the B.C. Liberals’ disregard for the gravity of this situation.

The careless and disrespectful attitude of the B.C. Liberals’ can only leave parents worried that they simply doesn’t care about protecting their private information. Sadly the Liberal government doesn’t seem to mind that it was the carelessness of Minister Virk that has put the privacy of our children at risk.

Of course, these disrespectful comments are part of a larger pattern of carelessness and disregard shown by the B.C. Liberals when it comes to protecting our private information.

Just this week, B.C.’s Privacy Commission released a report highlighting the problems in how our health care system handles privacy breaches. The report found that due to a lack of clear guidelines, less than one percent of the privacy breaches in the health care system are even reported.

Furthermore, within the last year, there have been numerous privacy breaches in B.C. with everything from people’s birth dates to their driver’s license numbers have been mishandled by this government.

Every time a privacy breach happens, the government says the same things: a mistake was made, we’ll look into it, and we’ll make the system better next time.

The lost hard drive with personal information about 3.4 million people shows the B.C. Liberals have not learned from their mistakes. They are not taking their job seriously of protecting our private information. When the minister responsible won’t even acknowledge the magnitude of this data breach, how can British Columbians have any trust that their government prioritizes their safekeeping of their personal information?

British Columbians deserve a government that takes the protection of private information seriously. Not one that down plays the risks associated with the biggest breach of personal information in the history of the province. Not one that can’t explain why information about 3.4 million people was stored on an unencrypted hard drive. Not one that doesn’t know where the lost hard drive is.

But once again, the B.C. Liberals have shown British Columbians they simply aren’t up to the job.