Privacy commissioner launches investigation into Equifax data breach

OTTAWA _ Canada’s privacy watchdog says it has opened an investigation into the massive Equifax Inc. data breach after receiving several complaints and dozens of calls from concerned Canadians.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada says that the credit monitoring company has committed to notifying all impacted Canadians in writing as soon as possible, but it will not be calling affected consumers.

Equifax said last week that it was the victim of a massive cyberattack that may have compromised the personal data of as many as 143 million Americans and a limited number of Canadian and U.K. residents, but has not specified how many individuals in Canada were impacted.

The credit monitoring company’s call centre staff have told callers that only Canadians that have credit files in the U.S. were likely to be impacted.

However, the privacy commissioner says at this point, it is not clear that the affected data was limited to Canadians with U.S. dealings.

The watchdog added that Equifax will also offer free credit monitoring to those Canadians that are affected.

The development comes as Canadians who are worried they might be victims of the Equifax Inc. voice concern they are being treated as an afterthought in the wake of one of the largest online data breaches in history.

Since the data breach was announced, the company has been largely silent on how many Canadians may have been exposed. Equifax did not respond to requests for comment.

On Friday, the credit company announced that its U.K. systems were not affected by the breach. However, there was a batch of fewer than 400,000 British consumers who had some of their personal information compromised, although the company said that information was unlikely to lead to identity theft.

Equifax is offering identity protection services to those British consumers, similar to the program it’s offering to Americans.

The company has traced the theft of information to a software flaw that could have been fixed well beforehand.