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Personal Data Mishandled at Commerce Dept.

By Ed O'Keefe

The names and Social Security numbers of at least 27,000 Commerce Department employees were exposed to a risk of identity theft following an inappropriate transfer of the personal information in mid-July, according to a letter sent to department employees last week.

An employee with the National Finance Center mistakenly sent an Excel spreadsheet containing the employees' personal information to a co-worker via e-mail in an unencrypted form on July 13, according to the letter. The employee informed supervisors of the oversight almost immediately, and there is no indication thus far that information has been compromised, according to the letter.

The National Finance Center is part of the Agriculture Department and handles payroll and personnel matters for the Commerce Department and several other government agencies.

The 27,000 employees work across the department's various bureaus and offices, according to a spokeswoman. The department is finalizing an agreement with a data-tracking company to monitor for possible cases of identity theft stemming from the breach of protocol and has urged employees to set up personal tracking alerts with credit reporting agencies.

Preserving information security is an ongoing challenge for the federal government's many agencies and departments. Last week, a Congressional panel heard about the presence of sensitive government information on peer-to-peer file sharing networks. In May, the National Archives admitted it lost an external hard drive with the names and personal information of Clinton administration staffers, including 100,00 Social Security numbers. And in February, the Federal Aviation Administration informed about 45,000 current and former employees of a data breach involving personal information when hackers compromised agency computer systems.

By Ed O'Keefe  | August 3, 2009; 12:21 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Workplace Issues  
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Commerce Department employees? Aren't these the same people who excused and presided over the outsourcing of 40 million U.S. jobs, issued 4.5 million H1-b and L-1 visas that cost America it's technological advantage in the world, squandering our national security. I hope and pray, really hope, that those identities end up in India and that these treasonous swine end up utterly ruined.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | August 3, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

mibrooks27 is confused: Commerce Department employees are simply good workers who implement the law of the country as promulgated by the Congress and President of the US who were duly elected by voters like mibrooks27.

Posted by: crete | August 3, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

More to the point: USDOC doesn't issue visas. That's the State Department.

Posted by: obergc | August 3, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

When have we heard these sorts of excuses before? I remember, when SS prison camp guards said they were only following orders....

Posted by: mibrooks27 | August 3, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

To the person that said they hope that all of the information is sent to India, how childish is that? Not everyone that works at Commerce made the decisions that obviously effected you... Why do you feel it neccessary to call ALL 27,000 employees that may be at jeopardy here TREASONOUS SWINE?? Do you think that these decisions were made by 27,000 employees? Please in the future try to think before you say immature things like that.

Posted by: hardworking1 | August 3, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

My goodness, Mibrooks27. Such sputum! Your posts read like a North Korean pressrelease or an Ahmadinejad speech to the UN. Do you live in a cave? Obergc is correct -- Commerce doesn't issue work visas. Maybe you could look it up? Before you post would be better, too. Ignorance can be cured but stupidirty is forever. Commerce employees are certainly not "treasonous swine" who should " end up utterly ruined." But you've probably made 27000 new friends over there who have hopes for your future now. And maybe a few more at State? and possibly sime at the IRS who are waiting for your next tax return. You have the right to remain silent; best you exercise that right.

Posted by: qball43 | August 3, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Insignificant compared to the 9 million illegal aliens that are committing identity fraud, with stolen SSNs, to work at jobs requiring an I-9, W-4, etc.

Posted by: hunter340 | August 3, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Now the Obama administration wants the US government to have all our medical records at their finger tips.

Remember that Obama's opponents in Illinois "mysteriously" had their sealed divorce records leaked to the press - and subsequently Obama became "The Won."

Imagine walking past a group of your co-workers and having them snickering in your general direction. Personal medical records will be a powerful political weapon.

Posted by: Bellamia | August 3, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

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