Privacy commissioner finds a big jump in complaints and data breaches

OTTAWA – Canada’s privacy commissioner saw a big jump in the number of complaints and data breaches in federal departments and institutions last year.

Jennifer Stoddart tabled her annual report in Parliament today, including the results of a special audit of Veterans Affairs Canada, which was at the centre of a privacy scandal in 2010.

The commissioner’s office accepted 986 complaints in 2011-12, an increase of 39 per cent from the previous year, and most of them were directed at Corrections Canada, National Defence, the RCMP and Veterans Affairs.

In addition, Stoddart says there were 80 data breaches involving personal information, the highest number of breaches they’ve catalogued in recent years, but it’s unclear whether it’s because of more diligent reporting — or if there was an increase in the actual number of incidents.

The commissioner also says the Canada Revenue Agency has been singled out for a special audit following reports over the last few years of privacy breaches involving employees inappropriately accessing taxpayer information.