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Government secrets available at a thrift store

January 30, 2009 by  

A New Zealand man gained access to sensitive U.S. dataAfter a recent scathing report on federal agencies’ failure to comply with civil rights regulations, another story brings home the need for better oversight of sensitive data by the U.S. government.

A New Zealand man who bought an old MP3 player at an Oklahoma thrift store for $9 discovered that it contained 60 files with confidential military information including the names and personal details of American soldiers, according to New Zealand television reports.

"When you can identify American personnel, when you have their names, their home address, their cell phone numbers, you put people in a dangerous position," Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington was quoted as saying by CNN.

Pentagon officials contacted by the network admitted that they were aware of the situation, but declined to provide further comments.

This is hardly the first instance of government’s negligence in handling sensitive personal information. In 2006, a Department of Veterans Affairs subcontractor lost a computer with insurance claim data of patients at Pittsburgh and Philadelphia VA Medical Centers.

The story broke just days after a USA Today report listed several federal agencies which failed to appoint civil liberties protection officers and report to Congress on the efforts to safeguards private citizens’ personal information.
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