Education ministry staff have searched in vain since this summer to locate a backup hard drive containing B.C. and Yukon student information from 1986 to 2009.
The computer memory disk contains 3.4 million education records, including names, postal codes, grades and personal education numbers.
Citizens' Services Minister Amrik Virk said Tuesday there is no evidence the information has been taken or misused. After a lengthy physical search of a secure warehouse in Victoria turned up nothing, ministry electronic records continue to be searched to see if the hard drive was destroyed.
Virk said there were two unencrypted backup hard drives created in 2011, contrary to ministry information and privacy rules. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has been notified and is investigating.
"There's no doubt that a mistake was made, first in how the hard drive was created, and secondly, how it was stored," Virk said. "This should not have happened."
The drive also more than 9,000 personal education numbers for children in government care, connected to information such as health and behaviour issues. This sensitive personal information could be connected to names by comparing the personal education numbers to names using the larger data file.
NDP education critic Rob Fleming said Virk is coming forward after several weeks because he doesn't believe the missing hard drive will be found.
"For government to admit this has happened is not good enough," Fleming said. "They have to tell us how and why it happened, and the minister specifically has to say why he failed to do his job."
Details on the data on the missing hard drive are online here.
A contact centre has been set up through Service BC for specific inquiries. Callers should be able to note when they attended K-12 or post-secondary school in B.C. The contact centre is open Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached by calling:
Victoria: 250 387-6121
Vancouver: 604 660-2421
Elsewhere in B.C.: 1 800 663-7867