Lawsuit filed against SFU for data breach

Law firm Slater Vecchio LLP calls for impacted students to be provided with credit protection services paid for by the university

PHOTO: Gudrun Wai-Gunnarsson / The Peak

Written by: Jaymee Salisi, News Writer

Following SFU’s data breach on February 3, 2021, BC law firm Slater Vecchio LLP filed a class action lawsuit against the university on behalf of the 200,000 individuals affected by the incident. The lawsuit argues that SFU students should have a higher safety standard for the storage of their personal information.

In Slater Vecchio LLP’s lawsuit notice, they said SFU failed to take preventative measures to protect the security of students as they were unable to adequately detect unauthorized collection of data. 

According to the firm, SFU did not act “in accordance with the standards imposed by the Personal Information Protection Act,” which holds organizations responsible for protecting their users’ personal information. 

As a result of the breach, the firm claims students suffered:

  • Violation of privacy
  • Psychological distress
  • Costs related to identity theft prevention 
  • Out of pocket expenses
  • Wasted time
  • The inconvenience of taking precautions to reduce the likelihood of identity theft
  • Possibility of exposure to future identity theft

The cyberattack exposed personally identifiable information including name identifiers, date of birth, student/employee numbers, and academic standing data of past and present faculty, staff, and students. The server was breached for eight minutes while undergoing system security improvements, and was discovered two days later. This is SFU’s second data breach in the span of 12 months.

In an email interview with The Peak, Slater Vecchio LLP lawyer Samuel Jaworski said lawyers were alerted to the breach by SFU alumni in the firm.

“It is more important than ever that entities entrusted with personal information be held accountable when they fail to take proper precautions when storing sensitive data,” Jaworski said.

Slater Vecchio LLP is asking SFU to offer paid credit protection services for five years to those impacted. This would help monitor potential fraudulent activity on a person’s credit card.

Jaworski said, “We see class actions as an effective way of protecting the privacy rights of individuals.”

When asked about the firm’s expected outcome from the case, he responded, “We will have to defer further comments on the merits at this time. We have faith in our justice system and will allow the court process to unfold.”

The Peak also reached out to SFU to speak to the case, but they were unable to comment. 

“We are not able to speak about any legal action where a matter is before the courts,” said senior director, media relations and public affairs Angela Wilson. 

More information about Slater Vecchio LLP’s civil claim against SFU can be found online.