All Posts Tagged With: "privacy"
No fraud reported so far
We’re sorry — and we’re trying to make sure it never happens again.
That’s the message from senior federal bureaucrats responsible for the loss of personal information belonging to more than half a million Canadians.
Human Resources and Development Canada lost an external hard drive and USB key last year, resulting in the massive privacy breach.
Both the RCMP and privacy commissioner are investigating and at least three class action lawsuits have been launched as a result.
Bureaucrats from the department apologized today in front of a House of Commons committee as they tried to explain what went wrong.
They say they’ve been monitoring for signs the data is being misused, but no fraud has been reported so far.
Affected graduates unsatisfied with gov’t response
Last Friday, the agency that oversees the Canada Student Loans Program shocked post-secondary graduates by announcing it had lost social insurance numbers, full names, dates of birth, contact information and loan balances of 583,000 individuals who took federal loans between 2000 and 2006. The information was stored on an external hard drive deemed missing from a Gatineau, Que. office on Nov. 5.
Just five days after the bombshell announcement from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, the agency that oversees Canada Student Loans, more than 4,300 Canadians had approached St. John’s Nfld.-based lawyer Bob Buckingham about his proposed class action lawsuit. Today, that class action suit was filed.
“New information comes into us by the minute from people on what is happening here, in terms of the cost and consequences to them,” says Buckingham, a privacy breach claims lawyer. He added that he hopes HRSDC will “negotiate a reasonable and realistic resolution.”
HRSDC representative Amélie Maisonneuve wrote in an email to Maclean’s On Campus Thursday morning that they are “committed to conducting a thorough and extensive review of this incident in order to prevent such an occurrence in the future.” Maisonneuve added that “extensive, in-depth and thorough search efforts for the missing hard drive have been undertaken and continue.”
HRSDC has already undertaken some action in an attempt to address the fallout. On Monday, they launched a toll-free number that concerned borrowers may call and check whether their personal information had been involved. The department has fielded more than 40,000 calls already.
But some students aren’t finding it very useful. Victoria Strange, a 25-year-old Bishop’s University graduate, called the hotline on Monday after hearing online about the privacy breach. “My future’s pretty much on the line if someone takes my identity,” she says. “There’s not much I can do about protecting my social insurance number, because I have no idea who might have it.”
Rochelle Latinsky, a 27-year-old York University graduate who lives in Toronto, made the call to HRSDC on Tuesday. She said she was told to expect a letter with further information from the department in the coming days. She says a letter doesn’t cut it: “They should be doing their best to try and reach out to people beyond a letter in the mail,” she said.
HRSDC confirmed they are mailing letters to affected individuals detailing next steps.
Latinsky has since made calls to her bank and a credit reporting agency, as suggested by HRSDC, to monitor her situation for any fraudulent activity. “The fact that I have to do all the chasing,” she says, “is really not cool.”
When asked whether they would join a class action lawsuit like Buckingham’s, both Latinsky and Strange said they would consider it. Strange says her trust in the government has been broken.
Names, SIN numbers, contact info. missing
A federal agency has lost a portable hard drive containing personal information about more than half a million people who took out student loans.
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada said Friday the device contained data on 583,000 Canada Student Loans Program borrowers from 2000 to 2006.
The missing files include student names, social insurance numbers, dates of birth, contact information and loan balances of borrowers, as well as the personal contact information of 250 department employees.
Borrowers from Quebec, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories during this time period are not affected.
What students are talking about today (December 28th)
1. Randi Zuckerberg, the sister of Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, was upset that a Facebook “friend” shared a family photo (including Mark) with the entire internet. “Digital etiquette: always ask permission before posting a friend’s photo publicly. It’s not about privacy settings, it’s about human decency,” Zuckerberg Tweeted after Callie Schweitzer shared the snapshot with more than 39,000 followers. Schweitzer deleted the photo, but that didn’t do much good. Facebook has done more to make our “private” photos public than any other site, so countless Internet users felt schadenfreude that the founder’s family’s privacy had been breached. You can see the photo here (and many other places). Does this mean I have no human decency either?
2. Nathan Weaver, a student at Clemson University in South Carolina, wanted to figure out the best way to assist turtles in crossing the road, so he put a real-looking rubber turtle in the middle of a busy street near campus. In the next hour, seven drivers intentionally ran over the turtle and several more looked like they tried to hit it. About one in 50 hit the turtle. It takes turtles several minutes to cross roads, so evil humans could be the reason turtle populations are declining.
Movember jewelery, discovery at McMaster & Instagram
1. Four Kwantlen University students are fulfilling their business degree requirements and raising money for prostate cancer research by selling Movember-themed jewelery. Their mo necklaces, sold online, are so popular that they ran out at one point, reports the Vancouver Sun. Movember is an annual mustache-growing fundraiser.
2. Just in time for Remembrance Day on Sunday, librarians in McMaster University’s special collections discovered several poppies preserved in the travel diary of a soldier’s wife. Librarian Wade Wyckoff told Metro that he believes the petals originated from Flanders fields, that famous World War One graveyard where the poppies grow, between the crosses, row on row.
3. If you’re on Instagram, there’s a new reason to be concerned about your privacy. The social photo sharing site has done you the favour of putting all of your photos on the web. They’re at Instagram.com/your username. Users can turn off the profiles through their mobile devices.
Hint: it’s not just those annoying “friends”
During the few moments of free time I have during midterm season, I surf the web and catch up on my social media profiles. As I recently did this, I heard a ‘ping’ come from my Facebook tab. After I excitedly clicked the little blue ‘f’, eager to read what new gossip my friend wished to dish, I was disappointed to find that the contact starting up the conversation was a semi-casual acquaintance from high school.
We all have those online “friends,” the ones where continuing a conversation is as painful as a trip to the dentist. My usual plan is to just ignore the message—waiting until this well-meaning individual moves on to what I’m sure is a riveting conversation with someone else. This usual strategy, however, no longer worked. Why? Because now Facebook has let the object of my avoidance know that I have read the message.
Supreme Court grants “A.B.” anonymity
A teenage girl allegedly defamed on a bogus Facebook page can proceed with a lawsuit without revealing her name, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Thursday.
The judges ruled 7-0 that the girl is entitled to anonymity to prevent her from becoming a victim a second time.
But the court also rejected her request for a publication ban on the defamation suit, as long as she is not identified in any materials made public.
The case made its way to the Supreme Court after the girl’s family appealed a Nova Scotia Court of Appeal decision.
The girl, known as A.B. in court documents, was 15 when she and her family sought a court order compelling Internet service provider Eastlink to reveal the identity of the person who had allegedly set up the fake Facebook profile about her.
How to deal with a roommate who’s the polar opposite
By Rosemary Counter.
A decade ago, which might as well be a century in technology years, Michelle Titus was like many ﬁrst-year university students: away from home, stuck in a “teeny tiny, horrible” room, and living with a complete stranger she couldn’t stand.
In her defence, it was a bad match from the start. Titus was popular and outgoing, the soon-to-be relationship columnist at the University of Waterloo’s student paper. Her roommate was an introvert who’d wishfully described herself on her application as a “social butterﬂy.” “On paper, we should have been the best of friends,” says Titus, now 30. In real life, following some drama worthy of Mean Girls, they were estranged by the end of the year.
Woman flees washroom
A third woman has reported an apparent peeping tom lurking in a washroom at York University.
This comes two weeks after two similar incidents. Women reported seeing a man in a washroom stall at Curtis Lecture Hall on Jan. 9 and Jan. 10.
The latest incident occurred on Jan. 24 inside a washroom at the Stacy Lecture Hall. At 8:55 p.m., a woman says she noticed large shoes inside a stall that looked like they belonged to a man. She fled the washroom and activated a security alarm.
The suspect is described as a brown male aged 21 to 23. He’s about six feet tall, weighs about 185 pounds. He has a chinstrap beard and a square jaw. He was last seen wearing dark jeans, brown or dark-green shoes with beige soles, a dark-grey hoodie with a black jacket and was carrying a dark brown or black backpack. Those with any information are encouraged to contact Crime Stoppers.
Male suspect had phone in his hand
Toronto police are looking for a man after several women reported seeing a male lurking in washrooms at York University over the past week.
Police say that on Jan. 9, at 6:05 p.m. two women in a washroom stall at Curtis Lecture Hall noticed a man reach under the stall they were in, holding a cellular phone. The man then fled. The next day at 8:30 p.m., a different woman walked into a washroom at Curtis Hall and saw a man looking over a stall. He fled once more.
The suspect is described as brown skinned, aged 20 to 25 years old, 5’8″ to 5’9″ high with a thin face and chinstrap beard, dark eyes and black hair. He was last seen wearing a grey knitted sweater, blue jeans, grey shiny sneakers with two straps and a grey toque.
The perils of co-ed washrooms
From the 21st Maclean’s University Rankings. Get your copy today!
Some call it “the can,” others, the final frontier of gender equality: It’s the public washroom and it’s gone co-ed. Even though single-sex facilities are still the norm on the majority of Canadian university campuses, you’d be hard-pressed to find a school that doesn’t have at least one co-ed washroom—and it usually includes shower stalls. McGill, York University, the University of Toronto, Dalhousie, Mount Allison and the University of British Columbia are just a few of the “progressive” (or backwards, depending on your lavatorial leanings) co-ed washroom providers, earning the approval of campus feminists who view mixed facilities as a positive step towards full gender equality. Others, however, are not convinced. One 18-year-old Queen’s University psychology major says she was relieved to live in an all-girls dormitory solely because of the same- sex bathroom factor. Co-ed washrooms struck her as “grosser because boys used them,” says Jessica, now in her second year and living off-campus with a washroom of her own. “The girls’ ones were generally very clean.” Jessica would regularly make the five-minute walk back to her all-girls dorm from the co-ed dorm where many of her girlfriends lived, simply to avoid using the washrooms there. “It just smelled so much worse,” she says, before conceding, “maybe I just have bathroom phobia.”
Students worry about privacy
An American university has gone to great lengths to enforce its new rule that first-semester students may not attend fraternity or sorority events.
Cornell University is releasing an ID scanning application for Apple devices. Fraternity and sorority party organizers will be required to borrowan iPod with the application installed from the school, which they’ll use at the doors of their social events. The app allows them to check student’s names, class years and whether they’ve reached 21, the legal drinking age in the U.S.
The information scanned is accessible “to a limited few in our office… and stored on a secure server with no plans to share further,” Travis Apgar, associate dean of students for fraternity and sorority affairs, told The Sun. “The use of the scanners will improve [the Greek community’s] management of risk by properly identifying the class year of attendees,” he said.
What researchers are doing on Facebook
Students who post on Facebook about “getting drunk” or “blacking out” or “getting wasted” might want to change their privacy settings.
U.S. researchers have determined that if you post about getting wasted you’re at a higher risk for alcohol abuse. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), which funded the study, suggests schools consider creeping students’ public profiles to “identify and intervene with college students who are at risk for alcohol use problems,” said director Kenneth Warren.
Researchers looked at the public Facebook profiles of more than 300 undergraduate students and invited the students to use an online version of the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, or AUDIT, a screening tool that clinicians use to measure problem drinking. “We found that underage college students who referenced dangerous drinking habits, such as intoxication or blacking out, were more likely to have AUDIT scores that indicate problem drinking or alcohol-related injury,” said Dr. Megan Moreno, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. An AUDIT score of 8 or higher means the person is at risk of a problem drinking. Underage students who referenced “being drunk” or “getting wasted” in the study had audit scores of 9.5 on average. Students who had no references to alcohol scored 4.7 on average. In other words, the tool could work.
But what about protecting students’ privacy from creeping admins? Someone should study that too.
School may have overreacted, but students should have known better
A group of nursing students at Johnson County Community College were kicked out of school for posing with a human placenta and posting the photos on Facebook. (It seems the esteemed “in-mirror club shot” for Facebook has effectively been replaced.) According to court documents, the students were visiting a medical centre with their class in November when they asked their teacher if they could take photos with a placenta. The teacher “implied consent” and the girls snapped away, posting the pictures on a least one Facebook page. A few hours later, an instructor requested that the photos be taken down, and the students were informed that they were being “dismissed.” They responded by filing suit against the school.
This story has gone viral south of the border, inciting heated debate about the freedom to post the miscellaneous online and the appropriateness of school sanctions for non-academic conduct. The issue is not foreign to us here in Canada, as the University of Calgary is currently battling a case concerning its punishment of two students for content they posted on Facebook. The rhetoric is usually the same; either “give me freedom and stay off my page” or “privacy is dead, so act responsibly.”
Regarding this particular case, public opinion seems to have come down hard on the school for enforcing such a severe punishment, and it’s not terribly difficult to see why. The placenta the students (inexplicably) decided to pose with was not attributable to an individual; it was an anonymous placenta, in other words. And they weren’t doing anything exceptionally inappropriate with the organ, just posing and snapping photos (which is curious enough, to say the least). But the situation is complicated for a number of reasons. Firstly, the placenta is an organ involved with reproduction and birth, which makes it a little more personal, sensitive, than a lung, for example. It’s the difference between posing with a heart and posing with a pair of severed testicles; one snapshot will elicit a little more reaction. Secondly, the students are studying to be nurses, a job that demands professionalism and empathy, especially when working with patients whose illnesses have robbed them of dignity. Nonchalance in the presence of blood, scars, feces, vomit, etc. (except when medically necessary) is the mark of appropriate bedside manner. Few patients would feel secure watching their nurse gawk at their oddly coloured growth.
But unless the school has explicit rules about appropriate out of class conduct, it seems beyond its parameters to police students’ Facebook pages. If they indeed did get permission from their instructor, they weren’t technically breaking the rules. But the real onus lies with the students. The infalliability of one’s online presence is a myth, a lesson which, unfortunately, students seem to be learning over and over. Skeletons from school left hidden in your closet (or on your wall, in this case) can be detrimental to your career, and should be purged from your page. That means all those aspiring kindergarten teachers should probably take those “dead baby” jokes off their profiles. It is the student’s responsibility to act professionally, not the school’s obligation to look the other way. Even if your professor doesn’t catch you, don’t leave it to your boss.
Taking photographs of strippers from campus office not a ‘fireable offence’
A Ryerson University librarian who took photos of strippers from his campus office will not be fired. “If you read the laws of the land it is very, very clear that you can take a photograph,” Ryerson President Sheldon Levy told the Eyeopener. “If people don’t like it, too bad.”
Digital archives librarian Brian Cameron photographed dancers who were taking a break on the rooftop of Zanzibar strip club in August and September. He then posted the images, some of which clearly show the faces of the women, to his Flickr account. The Torontoist published ten of the photos last week sparking outrage from the dancers pictured, two of whom quit. Although the Torontoist has since removed most of the photos, they are still viewable at the Toronto Sun website with the faces digitally obscured.
Despite privacy concerns and the fact that the photos were taking on campus, Levy said Cameron’s actions do not qualify as a “fireable offence.”
Take down your home address, remove your SIN and delete those incriminating photos
It seems we’re all taking a lesson from our beloved Toronto mayor in failing to read the fine print. (See Miller’s Illiteracy: Infrastructure Stimulus Fund.)
And, staying true to our national heritage, we’ve decided to blame The Man. Today’s target: Facebook. That evil, information-hoarding, corporate lackey serving troughs to capitalistic insatiability. Or something.
Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart posted her concerns in a report released Thursday. Stoddard says that Facebook does not comply with Canadian privacy laws and gives the company 30 days to amend procedures. Subsequently, the case can be brought to the Federal Court to force Facebook to tighten its policies.
Chief concerns include third party access to user information (via games, quizzes, etc.) and Facebook’s retention of personal information after users have closed their accounts.
…Well boo hoo. Cue the violins.
To me, the approach is baffling. Let’s spend lots of money bringing a case to Federal Court that could so easily be solved by telling our 14-year-olds not to post photos of themselves drinking Smirnoff Ices and making out with their best friends. No, the lesson: deflect blame, and you shall prosper.
To be pitifully cliché, it’s my opinion that privacy in an information age is an illusion. There are breaches everywhere—when you use your credit card, fill out survey or attend a public event or club. Chances are, if you don’t remember what happened last night, BeforeLastCall.com can refresh your memory.
It’s not an Orwellian prediction come true or an international intelligence conspiracy; it’s idiots like Ray Lam forgetting to de-tag his photos. So take down your home addresses, remove your SINs and delete those incriminating bachelor party photos. It’s time to come to terms, dear disgruntled, anonymous commenter, that if I really want to, I can probably find out your name. So be nice.
Anonymous reporting system can take tips either online or over a telephone hotline
A new security reporting tool, designed to allow employees to report theft, fraud, vandalism and unethical behaviour, is creating controversy at the University of Ottawa.
According to the Ottawa Citizen, the trademarked ClearView Connects system, which will cost the school about $13,000 dollars, will collect anonymous tips both online and through a live operator on a telephone hotline. The tips will then be forwarded to the school’s governance office.
In an email to staff, acting vice-president of governance Nathalie Des Rosier says “it is the duty of each employee to immediately report any incidents of wrong-doing related to University activities.”
She says McMaster has a similar reporting policy, as does the University of Lethbridge and Athabasca University.
Some academics are outraged, and say the system represents an invasion of privacy.
“A snitch line — that’s really what this is — creates an atmosphere of mistrust and secrecy,” said James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers. “It will open the door to malicious allegations because it promises anonymity.”
Phil Enright, ClearView’s executive vice-president of sales says the service is not a snitch line.
“My clients use it as an employee engagement mechanism — they know their concerns. Employees report things they sincerely believe to be a problem. It’s a positive thing,” he says. “Our clients have reported that the system is extremely valuable. Not just learning about ethics concerns, but learning about people leaving the organization.”
Enright declined to say how many clients the company has, but ClearView is the major player in Canada. He says the system is compliant with the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.
For more, click here.
Up to 28,000 Newfoundland students affected
Sarah Colborne-Penney is anxious that her two children may be among the 28,000 whose personal information went missing when four school board laptops were stolen recently. Police are investigating after an employee with the Eastern School District noticed the laptops missing Sunday from an administrative office in downtown St. John’s.
One of the laptops taken contained a database with the names, addresses, grade levels, health card and phone numbers of about 28,000 students at 56 schools, as well as the names of their parents and guardians. “I’m surprised and very dismayed at both the numbers of students involved, and the amount and the particulars of the information that’s at risk here,” Colborne-Penney, who has two children attending elementary school in the city, said Thursday. “You could really do some malice, if that’s your intent, with that type of information.”
The students affected by the possible security breach range from the kindergarten to Grade 12 levels, and are primarily in St. John’s and surrounding area. Eastern School District CEO Darrin Pike said the computers were protected by passwords and therefore access to the personal information was limited.
“It’s a concern of us,” Pike said in an interview. “This is not something that we wanted to happen or could foresee happening, and certainly we’ll do our best effort to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
It took the school board four days to report the thefts because officials had to do a risk assessment, Pike said.
“It took a while for us to find out exactly what information was on each of the machines, so that was a piece of the puzzle that had to be put together right away,” he said.
Const. Paul Davis of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said the break and entry into the office building wasn’t that unusual.
Thieves frequently target laptops due to their portability and because it’s relatively easy to sell them after wiping out the hard drive, Davis said.
“Today, laptops are a very much sought-after item for the criminal element,” Davis said.
Pike said health-care officials have advised him that access to individual medical records is not at risk, and that schools will be contacting the parents and guardians affected by the laptop thefts in the coming days.
One security expert said the security risk was low because the information contained in the laptop lacks a pragmatic value for most identity thieves.
“Frankly, I cannot really see much of a danger to those people whose information is stolen,” said Hasan Cabusoglu, a management information systems professor with the University of British Columbia.
“But it’s the kind of situation you don’t want to be in.”
Pike declined to say how the suspect or suspects may have gained entry, but said the break and entry was puzzling given that the building has security guards and security pass entry.
“You would look at this location as being a fairly secure location,” he said.
The school board has since tightened security measures at the office, he said.
Earlier this month, Memorial University warned students of a possible private information leak after a laptop belonging to a business professor was stolen.
The professor said he occasionally used his personal laptop for university-related purposes and that it may have contained class lists, names, student numbers and grades.
The Eastern School District manages 122 schools with approximately 44,000 students and 3,800 teaching and support staff.
- with a report from CP