April 30, 2007
Secretary of State
Contact: Don Cookson, 626-8404
Security Breach Brought to Light by Investigative TV Report
Augusta — Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap today discussed the results of an investigation conducted by WGME that uncovered personal information, including names and Social Security numbers, in a dumpster near the State Archives Records Center in Hallowell recently.
“What was discovered in the trash is certainly disturbing,” said Dunlap, adding “but even though no laws were broken and the information uncovered could also be found in a variety of public records readily accessible to anyone who cares to look at them, this incident highlights a need: for better tools for State employees and the implementation of additional policies and procedures to safeguard the personal information of Maine citizens.”
In developing a report about how state government handles personal information, news anchor Gregg Lagerquist discovered several pages of documents containing names and social security numbers. Other pages included names and dates of birth. The documents found were records requests-- inquiries sent to the Records Center by state employees who needed access to files stored there. Those requests had been discarded in an unsecured manner, in violation of security procedures already in place. “Through our own internal investigation, we have identified both the source of these records requests and the policy violations that resulted in their being tossed into an unsecured trash receptacle. We are grateful to WGME News for bringing this potential security threat to our attention. While learning of this through an investigative news report is not our preference, it is far better than having someone harmed by misuse of their personal information. We hope it makes everyone, not just state employees, more aware of the sheer volume of personal information that is readily available in the public arena. It remains every person’s duty to remain diligent in the protection of their personal data, and as officers of State government, our level of diligence has been greatly increased in the wake of this discovery.”
Dunlap concluded, “Even as this potential security leak has been plugged, work continues to identify any other potential weak links in the chain of documents handling in the Department of the Secretary of State. We will continue to make every effort to safeguard the personal information of Mainers, while trying to strike a balance with fair and reasonable access to records falling within the public domain.”
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