An encrypted DVD containing Yukoners’ names, addresses, social insurance numbers and other tax information has been lost by a registered courier service.
The DVD contained information belonging to 28,000 taxpayers who were Yukon residents in the 2014 tax filing year — likely every adult who filed an individual tax return that year.
Max Guenette, the chief privacy officer for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), said the DVD left Ottawa on Dec. 16, to be delivered to the Yukon government.
It left the sorting facility at the Vancouver airport on Dec. 19, and hasn’t been seen since.
Purolator, the courier service, has launched a search to find the DVD. But Guenette suggested that the DVD has been missing for long enough that it likely won’t be found at this point.
Still, he said there’s no indication that the DVD was stolen or that the data has been accessed.
“There’s nothing that would lead us to believe that that has happened,” he said. “We feel the risk to taxpayers is very low.”
Guenette said the DVD has multiple layers of protection, including a password and an encryption code. He said the information is also “unstructured,” meaning a reconciliation table would be needed to organize and make sense of it.
Without that, he said, the DVD simply contains a “jumble of information.”
The CRA says the encryption module on the DVD is approved by the Communications Security Establishment.
However, the agency is concerned because the DVD contains Yukoners’ addresses and social insurance numbers, Guenette said. If the data did fall into the wrong hands, identity theft is a possibility.
Guenette said Yukoners should keep track of their financial transactions and make sure they’re still getting all their regular mail.
“Just be on the lookout for anything that’s out of the ordinary,” he said, though he added that the DVD doesn’t contain any banking information.
The CRA has never lost a DVD containing this much taxpayer information. According to a news release from Feb. 3, the use of encrypted CDs and DVDs is “common practice when it comes to the exchange of information for tax purposes.”
Yukon Department of Finance spokesperson Eric Clement said the Yukon government receives tax information by courier from Ottawa four times a year. He said the data is used “for developing and testing tax policy.”
“It allows the taxation branch to run simulations for tax proposals and estimate the impact on the number of people impacted by specific policies,” he told the News in an email.
The CRA has also notified the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada about the incident. Guenette said the agency is conducting an internal investigation, and will provide a written report to the privacy commissioner.
“As we continue the work on this, we’re certainly going to be looking at where it’s possible to make improvements,” he said.
But he emphasized that “all security protocols were followed” in this case.
People whose information was on the DVD will receive a registered letter from the CRA. Anyone with questions about their personal information can call 1-866-426-1527 from Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Contact Maura Forrest at firstname.lastname@example.org