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JSS Barristers of Calgary has launched a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 600,000 students whose personal information has been lost. (CBC)

A Calgary law firm has launched a class-action lawsuit against the federal government on behalf of students who may have been affected by the loss of some computer information.

In November, data belonging to the Canada Student Loans Program was placed on an external hard drive which later disappeared along with the information of nearly 600,000 students.

The lawsuit alleges that loss is a breach of privacy and has put the students at risk of identity theft.

"We'd like to try and get the federal government to step up and provide monitoring for the class members, so that if the information starts to be used in identity theft, it can be detected early and the damage can be minimized," said Robert Hawkes, a lawyer with JSS Barristers.

All of the information was in connection to student loans handed out between 2000 and 2006.

Affected students

Hawkes says students who feel they are included in this group do not need to sign up immediately but they can monitor the case on the firm's website. Lawyers in other parts of the country are launching similar court action.

In the meantime, officials in Ottawa say students can ask for their social insurance number to be flagged in the event unusual activity is noted.