ATLANTA — Data breaches are nothing new. Then again, neither is incompetence.
But, in this age of big data, both can be as dangerous a game as Russian roulette.
The first rule of handling an “issue” is admitting one’s mistake, then working to resolve the situation in a timely fashion. The Georgia Department of Labor should learn a lesson today.
Thanks to employee error, the department sent the names and social security numbers of more than 4,000 people in Cobb and Cherokee counties who registered for unemployment benefits to more than 1,000 email addresses. A mistake of this magnitude is cringeworthy itself, but the department’s reaction is downright intolerable.
“The department has notified recipients of the error and instructed them to immediately delete the file attached to the email without opening it,” WSB-AM quoted the department as saying in a statement. And, what happens when only 999 people who mistakenly received the email decide to comply with this request?
Rather than being transparent and proactive, potential victims of this government mishandling of data found out via the news media. Then, rather than taking potential victims’ calls, the department’s Cobb/Cherokee office decided to turn off its phone, opting to take a page out of North Korea’s issues management playbook.
Whether it’s the local, state or federal government, the populous has a certain expectation that government will protect the sensitive data of its denizens. But, episodes like this week’s Georgia Department of Labor mishap only work to cast doubt on the government’s ability to control information about its citizens.
Yet, the federal government continues to keep a close eye on citizens, and wants to put its grip on even more data. If a state government cannot respond timely to citizens who are a lot closer to it than the federal government, how will Washington react the first time it loses names and social security numbers of millions of Americans?
And, we want to give governments at every level more chances to play Russian roulette with our private information? Can government really be trusted with our information?
Just ask the NSA. It kept its secrets oh so well.