Charlottetown (CUP)—The misplacement of an external hard drive from a federal government office in Gatineau, Quebec, has Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) publicly acknowledging a loss of data concerning over half-a-million recipients of Canada Student Loans.

“I want all Canadians to know that I have expressed my disappointment to departmental officials at this unacceptable and avoidable incident in handling Canadians’ personal information,” HRSDC Minister Diane Finley says in a statement released on Jan. 11. The discovery came during the review of a previous incident in which the department had lost a USB key containing the personal information of roughly 5000 Canadians.

The lost hard drive contains information on 583 thousand student loan borrowers who borrowed between 2000 and 2006, with the exception of those borrowers from Quebec, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories. The information lost includes names, addresses, birthdays, outstanding loan balances, and social insurance numbers. Both the RCMP and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner have been notified, and are working to resolve the matter.

Following the incident, Minister Finley has directed her department to implement stricter security protocols and tougher privacy protection— including the prohibition of external hard drives.

“On behalf of our Government, I want to reassure Canadians that we are serious about protecting their personal information,” Finley says.

“As Minister, I will ensure that every effort is taken so that HRSDC meets the expectations of Canadians in keeping their information safe and secure.”