Identity guardians lose personal data

Out-Law News | 23 Jun 2006 | 12:23 pm | 1 min. read

The Federal Trade Commission, the US body responsible for protecting citizens from identity theft and fraud, has had two laptops stolen which contain the personal details of 110 people.

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The incident is the latest in a string of laptop thefts or losses by several high profile organisations which expose customer or employee data to potential identity thieves. Given the identity theft prevention role of the FTC, however, this is likely to be the most embarrassing incident.

"The Commission is notifying approximately 110 individuals that two FTC laptop computers, one of which contained some of their personally identifiable information, were stolen from a locked vehicle," said an FTC statement.

"The personal information was gathered in law enforcement investigations and included, variously, names, addresses, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and in some instances, financial account numbers," the statement said.

The computers were being used to prepare an enforcement case and some of the individuals whose data was on the machines are current and past defendants in cases brought by the FTC. The body said that it does not believe that the information itself was the target of the theft.

"The FTC has no reason to believe the information on the laptops, as opposed to the laptops themselves, was the target of the theft," its statement said. "In addition, the stolen laptops were password protected and the personal information was a very small part of several thousand files contained in one of the laptops."

In the US the Veterans Affairs Department last month lost a hard drive containing data on 26.5 million ex-military personnel, while the Energy Department and Agriculture Department were both involved in data breaches.

The problem is becoming more common as more business moves on to laptops and security and privacy professionals become more concerned about identity theft.

The FTC said that its Inspector General would conduct an investigation into the theft and that it had offered the individuals concerned one year's worth of free credit monitoring.