News / Ottawa

University of Ottawa privacy breach could affect 900 students

The University of Ottawa has admitted to a privacy breach that may have put the private health information of 900 students at risk.

Metro file photo of the University of Ottawa.

Haley Ritchie/Metro

Metro file photo of the University of Ottawa.

The University of Ottawa has admitted to a privacy breach that may have put the private health information of 900 students at risk.

The university has launched an investigation into an external hard drive that went missing earlier this month that was used to back up personal student information at the Student Academic Success Services office.

The office helps students set up academic accommodations for students with learning disabilities.

“The university’s investigation is ongoing and its objective is to confirm the nature of the personal information that was stored on the external hard drive,” the university said in a release.

“The university is committed to ensuring all students affected are aware of the exact nature of their personal information that was stored on the external hard drive.”

The release notes that the incident was reported to the Ottawa Police Service and the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. The school has created an information line for concerned students.

Mireille Gervais, director of the Student Rights Centre, said their organization has yet to receive any complaints yet about the breach.

“We do have many clients who are registered with access services, but none of them have contacted us,” she said.

Gervais said she knows of students in the past who have complained of a privacy breach, but cases on this scale are rare. She said the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Office on campus allows for formal complaints to be made.

“There are different measures that the university will put in place depending on what the case is,” she said. “It’s just the kind of case where once the harm is done the harm is done. It’s so hard to offer a complete remedy – it’s impossible in cases of privacy beach. That’s why they’re so serious.”