Lost B.C. hard drive prompts review of Yukon data-sharing agreement

A hard drive that should be in a locked cage inside a locked warehouse in B.C. is missing. It contains exam results for some 1,300 Yukon students from 1993 to 2008 and detailed graduation files for 370 students in the 2007/2008 school year.

'I want it very clear what specific data we need to be concerned about,' says Yukon official

Our piece is, 'how do we ensure this never happens again?' says Judy Arnold, Yukon's deputy education minister. (CBC)

Yukon's education department says it will review its data-sharing policy with B.C., after that province lost a hard drive with millions of education records.

The B.C. government is unable to locate an unencrypted backup hard drive that contains about 3.4 million records that can be linked to specific individuals, the province's minister of technology, Amrik Virk, said Tuesday.

The hard drive contains student data from 1986 to 2009, including thousands of records pertaining to Yukon students, such as names, birth dates, addresses and course marks. The files do not include social insurance or health numbers.

The Yukon information also includes exam results for some 1,300 students from 1993 to 2008, and detailed graduation files for 370 students in the 2007/2008 school year. 

"I'm not content with just the summary we've been provided," Judy Arnold, Yukon's deputy minister of education, said. "I want more information, I want it very clear what specific data we need to be concerned about so we can follow through."

Arnold says B.C. collects data on Yukon students because Yukoners follow B.C.'s school curriculum. She says some Yukon students also pursue distance education from B.C. schools.

"Our data is shared with them through a data sharing agreement. We're going to be reviewing that agreement to ensure all the safeguards are in place," Arnold said.

The Yukon Teachers' Association also responded Tuesday, saying it was "shocked" by the data breach. 

Locked cage, locked warehouse, but no hard drive

"There's no doubt a mistake was made," said Virk. "First, in how the hard drive was created, and secondly, in how it was stored.

Amrik Virk, B.C.'s Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens' Services, has launched a review into the handling of personal data after an unencrypted hard drive was lost. The drive contained millions of education records on B.C. and Yukon students. (CBC)
"The bottom line is this should not have happened."

The hard drive was created in 2011, and was a backup for student records, according to an official with the B.C. education ministry. 

Virk said he learned last Friday at 12:30 p.m. that the drive had been misplaced, but officials with the education ministry have been trying to track it down since early August.

Electronic records showed the hard drive should be in a locked cage inside a locked warehouse, but when staff went looking for it, they couldn't find it.

​B.C.'s chief information officer has opened an investigation into the breach. The privacy commissioner will also investigate.

Virk also said he has ordered a review of how personal information will be handled across core government.

People who may be affected can call a Service B.C. information line open Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. PT at 1-800-663-7867, or 604-660-2421 in Vancouver.