Your most private personal information is not truly safe anywhere except in your own head. Several examples this week show that it’s certainly not safe with the government.
Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md., lost a box of backup tapes containing personal information on more than 135,000 patients and university employees. Officials there think a courier who was delivering the tapes left them at the wrong mail stop and the tapes were thrown out, but they can’t be sure.
Not far away, in Leonardtown, St. Mary’s Hospital reported that a laptop containing the personal information of some 130,000 patients, going all the way back to 1989, was stolen last December. Inexplicably, the hospital uses laptops instead of desktop computers to register patients being admitted. The hospital has started bolting down its laptops.
The City College of San Francisco announced that a file created in 2000 containing personal information, including Social Security numbers, on 11,000 students who attended the school in 1999 was inadvertently published on the Web. It said it does not believe anyone accessed the records or misused the information, however.
You aren’t safe if you didn’t go to college, though. A hacker obtained access to Iowa Department of Education records on people who obtained a GED in the state between 1965 and 2002, compromising as many as 160,000 identities. But the state says it thinks the hacker only looked at 600 of them.
The State of Connecticut inadvertently published on its Web site a spreadsheet containing personal information, including Social Security numbers, on 1,753 state employees. While they believe the spreadsheet was available for over three years, officials said the risk was low, since the document could only be found by searching for one of the names that was on it.
And for an update on a previously covered story: When thieves targeted CTS Tax Service in Cassopolis, Mich., and stole the computer, they got more than they bargained for. The owner is also the treasurer of Jefferson Township, and the stolen computer contained payroll information for the township and six other businesses.
And this is what happens when the government gets hold of your information and sticks it in databases, no matter how small or large.