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Michael Geist's Blog

Your Information is Not Secure: Thousands of Government Privacy Breaches Point to Need for Reform

As Canadians focused last week on the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing and the RCMP arrests of two men accused of plotting to attack Via Rail, the largest sustained series of privacy breaches in Canadian history was uncovered but attracted only limited attention.  Canadians have faced high profile data breaches in the past - Winners/HomeSense and the CIBC were both at the centre of serious breaches several years ago - but last week, the federal government revealed that it may represent the biggest risk to the privacy of millions of Canadians as some government departments have suffered breaches virtually every 48 hours.

The revelations came as a result of questions from NDP MP Charlie Angus, who sought information on data, information or privacy breaches in all government departments from 2002 to 2012.  The resulting documentation is stunning in its breadth.

My weekly technology column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that virtually every major government department has sustained breaches, with the majority occurring over the past five years (many did not retain records dating back to 2002). In numerous instances, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada was not advised of the breach.



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