Federal data breach raises issue of child's personal info

An Ottawa woman whose nine-year-old son receives benefits through her disability pension is concerned after Human Resources and Skills Development Canada warned that personal information on 5,000 people was lost on a USB key, the second federal data breach in recent weeks.

Lost USB key with info of 5,000 Canadians in addition November incident affecting 600,000

Ottawa mother Goldie Clarke is worried about her and her son's personal information after Human Resources and Skills Development Canada lost a USB key. (Stu Mills/CBC)

The Ottawa mother of a developmentally delayed boy is upset after a federal department sent a letter to Canadians warning of missing personal information located on a USB key.

Goldie Clarke, 46, received a letter this month from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) explaining the key containing the personal information of about 5,000 Canadians was missing.

The data belongs to recipients of pensions, old age security, employment insurance and child-care tax credits.

Clarke is worried about someone obtaining data about her disability pension, which helps cover costs incurred by her nine-year-old son.

She said she is concerned about her son's information being stolen, too.

"If they're giving me a benefit for him, under his name, then obviously his name and everything is connected to my file," said Clarke.

Privacy commissioner investigates data loss

In an email, a spokesperson for Human Resources Minister Diane Finley insisted children's information had not been exposed.

The federal privacy commissioner confirmed her office had opened an investigation into the loss of data after the department reported the missing USB in December.

This incident is separate from the probe into the disappearance of a hard drive containing the information of nearly 600,000 Canadians, which became public last week. 

That information was lost in early November when a portable hard drive vanished, affecting people who received Canada Student Loans between 2000 and 2006.

At least four lawsuits have been launched against the federal department in relation to the missing student loans data.