03/25/2014 11:31 EDT | Updated 05/25/2014 05:59 EDT

Privacy rules not followed on lost student loan data, report finds

Canada's interim privacy commissioner says the government didn't follow its own policies to protect sensitive data of more than 583,000 student loan recipients.

A report tabled in Parliament Tuesday says the disappearance of a portable hard drive containing personal information of over 500,000 Canadians was the result of the device being left unsecured, without password protection or encryption. The report also points out that employees were not aware of the sensitivity of the information on the device.

"Protecting personal information cannot be ensured by having policies on paper. Policies must be put into practice each and every day and monitored regularly," interim commissioner Chantal Bernier says in the report.

The investigation was launched in January 2013, after Employment and Social Development Canada reported the hard drive had been missing for two months. It contained the Social Insurance number, name, date of birth, home address , telephone number, loan amounts and balances for clients.

The government department was never able to find the device, but says there is no evidence that personal information on the hard drive has been used for fraudulent purposes.