Stolen laptop jeopardizes information of 2,000 students
Calgary Board of Education computer contains photos, grades, comments and addresses
Posted: Oct 17, 2012 7:58 AM MT
Last Updated: Oct 17, 2012 1:36 PM MT
Calgary’s public school board is apologizing to parents for a significant privacy breach affecting thousands of students.
A laptop containing confidential student information was stolen from the vehicle of a Calgary Board of Education employee on Oct. 5.
Though the computer was stolen two weeks ago, board officials say they are only notifying parents now because they didn't know exactly what information was on the computer.
Richard Peter of the CBE said school principals will continue to call affected parents Wednesday to inform them of the breach. More than half of the families have already been contacted.
Peter said the school board had to track down all the information to make sure they were contacting the right families.
The laptop contained report cards for more than 2,000 students in kindergarten to Grade 12 from 100 schools.
Peter said the students’ records were chosen randomly for an analysis of how to improve report cards.
“In the case of report cards for students between kindergarten and Grade 9, it includes the student’s name, their CBE identity number, their Alberta Education identity number, a student photo, as well as, obviously, all the comments that are on a report card from the teacher. In the case of high school report cards they often have parent addresses and names as well.”
Police aware of situation
Calgary police and Alberta’s privacy commissioner are aware of the situation.
“The police are following up. We hope that what happens is someone simply scrubs the hard drive that was password protected and just moves to sell the computer. We may never recover it,” said Peter.
“We've been advised that the chance of the data ever being accessed or used is unlikely.”
Peter said it’s an unfortunate situation.
“We regret that this happened. No one plans to have a laptop stolen. But we need to learn from this so we can help to ensure the data remains protected and confidential."
The CBE won't say whether the employee responsible for the laptop will be disciplined.
Privacy expert weighs in
Privacy expert Rick Klumpenhouwer, who works with companies and governments about privacy and protecting information, calls it unacceptable.
He says the board needs to a better job with such sensitive data.
"There was a tremendous amount of information about kids. They also had identifiers that could be used for identity theft — their CBE numbers, [Alberta] education number, things like that," he said.
"Put all that kind of information together and 2,000 is a significant amount of people."
Klumpenhouwer says even if the computer has a password "it doesn't take much to crack those, that's not much protection — it will slow you down that's about it."
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