Breaches Plague Government Agencies

Lost laptops in Tennessee's Davidson County and at the US Air Force add to concerns about government's privacy practices

Two more major losses of private data have been reported by government agencies in the past few days, adding fuel to fiery criticism of federal and regional government's privacy practices over recent weeks, both in the U.S. and overseas.

A holiday break-in at the Davidson County Election Office in Tennessee resulted in the theft of two laptops containing personal information on all 337,000 voters in the region, according to reports. The data included full Social Security numbers for each voter, and at least one report indicated that the data was not encrypted.

Meanwhile, more than 10,000 U.S. Air Force active and retired employees were informed Friday that a laptop containing their Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and telephone numbers is missing, according to reports. The laptop belonged to an Air Force band member at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., and was reported missing from his home.

A stolen laptop containing personal information was also reported by the Minnesota Department of Commerce on Friday.

The data losses by the regional and federal government agencies in the U.S. are fuel to the fire of criticism that has taken place in the U.K. over the past several weeks, as more details come to light about breaches in several British government agencies. (See UK Government in Uproar Following Data Loss.)

And criminals may not even have to break in or steal data to get citizens' personal information from government agencies, according to a report in yesterday's Washington Post. The report notes that criminals can gather names, Social Security numbers, and other personal data simply by scanning through online public records and documents.

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