Provincial department inadvertently reveals SIN numbers

Jim Day
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Tracey MacDonald covers his son's SIN number that is visible in the window of this envelope mailed out by a provincial department. 

A faulty provincial government-mailing machine is to blame for social insurance numbers being visible in envelope windows of distributed mail.

The Department of Innovation and Advanced Learning issued a statement Monday noting that an equipment malfunction led to the inadvertent distribution of some student information.

The machine improperly folded some forms sent to recipients of post-secondary grants and bursaries causing the nine-digit SIN of the recipient to be visible through the envelope's window.

The folding machine is currently undergoing repair and staff are reviewing protocol to prevent future recurrence.

"Privacy is government's primary concern and we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused,'' the department stated.

Tracey MacDonald of Hampton was shocked when he brought in the mail Friday.

Among the mail was a T-4 for a bursary that his son received at Holland College last year. His son's social insurance number was clearly visible through the envelope's window in the mail sent from the Department of Innovation and Advanced Learning.

MacDonald's son's name, address and postal code were directly underneath the social insurance number.

He says the slip is a security concern as well as a privacy issue.

"It doesn't seem right,'' he said.

MacDonald says he came to The Guardian with his concern not to raise a fuss but simply to raise awareness. He also informed the Department of Innovation and Advanced Learning about the slip.


Organizations: Holland College, Department of Innovation and Advanced Learning

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Recent comments

  • David
    February 26, 2013 - 18:59

    So who sees these letters...the people who mailed them, the letter carriers, and the recipient. So is this guy saying out mail carriers are dishonest and would steal people's identity? because obviously the people who sent them already know the information, the recipient I would hope would know their own SIN so only other people who handle mail is the Post Office is he saying that Canada Post Employees are dishonest? Well beinga Canada Post employee I find what he is saying is offensive. Does he think we would steal someone's SIN?

  • Gerry
    February 25, 2013 - 19:44

    So, the machine actually determined the manner in which the paperwork was to be inserted into the envelope? Obviously "the machine" does not practise quality assurance either. HMMMM.

  • John Ross Ewing
    February 25, 2013 - 17:36

    I agree with privacy too but folks receiving these letters should be glad its PEI mail drivers not sketchy always different sub contractors like in St. Elsewhere. These envelopes would have went straight to the post office in town and automatically sorted and delivered to a local post office and then to you by someone who probably has worked there for years. Unlikely the SIN numbers were even noticed amongst all the other mail they handle.

  • Blame
    February 25, 2013 - 17:04

    Do the Liberal spin...Blame it on Binns..Blame it on no oil.....Blame it on no potash..Blame iot on Harper...Blame the devill.

  • Katrina
    February 25, 2013 - 16:49

    The government is doing a great job keeping our information private and secure. First there was the screw up with our student loan information (names and SINs) the "went missing" and now this...

  • Katrina
    February 25, 2013 - 16:40

    The government is doing a real good job at keeping our information private and secure. First, our student loan information including names and SINs is 'gone missing' and now this. This is ridiculous.

  • wtf
    February 25, 2013 - 16:37

    Are the fed and prov governments trying to punish people who actually get an education?

  • Garth Staples
    February 25, 2013 - 16:24

    So will there be a hue and cry by the Liberals , Socialists, hand wringers and the Guardian? How could the Ghiz Liberal Govt put up with a faulty machine? Buy a new one. You've got lots of money. Yes , No?

  • wtf
    February 25, 2013 - 16:17

    Are the fed and prov governments trying to punish people who actually get an education?

    • Student
      February 26, 2013 - 08:44


  • bye the way
    February 25, 2013 - 16:12

    Folding machine ? It's poor design. SIN or any other secure numbers should not be anywhere near an address on a "window envelope." HINT to the Department of Innovation and Advanced Learning..... That's why they call it a Window Envelope.

  • Bill Kays
    February 25, 2013 - 15:47

    If "Privacy is government's primary concern" then this type of thing would not happen. The Department of Innovation and Advanced Learning is a joke, perhaps they should INNOVATE (a methoid to prevent this type of info loss) or LEARN how not to let it happen. Just look at the crooks and their buddies that get the bulk of the monies from this corrupted institution's feeding trough.

  • Bad form
    February 25, 2013 - 15:33

    The fix for this problem is two-fold (excuse the pun): the machine of course needs repair, and the S.I.N. would be best located in another area of the form. Forms are folded in thirds - the S.I.N. should not be included on the same third of the form as the mailing address which is seen through the window. Since this is a T4 type form, it is likely the form is in triplicate on one sheet. Therefore the S.I.N. should be on the right-hand side when the mailing address is on the left. I'd prefer a downloadable form from the government of Canada since they have it anyway... or is that Lougheed-Martin now too?