Another Day, Another Data Breach – Open Item
You may have read this elsewhere but it’s really too important to skip so we’re going to spend some time talking about the latest Internal Revenue Service blunder in today’s Open Item. According to Brian Fung of National Journal, the IRS accidentally exposed the personal information of thousands of Americans associated with nonprofit political 527 groups – something they weren’t aware of until Carl Malamud, founder of a nonprofit transparency group, gave them a heads up.
Malamud discovered the breach after contacting the agency about records the IRS had asked him to ignore in an earlier release related to disclosure of data from 990-T tax forms. Fung reports:
Just the day before, Malamud had filed another letter to the agency describing a problem with the 990-Ts. Of over 3,000 tax returns contained in the January update, 319 contained sensitive data the agency should have scrubbed, Malamud wrote in the July 1 report that he filed to the inspector general’s office. In that mixup, some 2,319 social security numbers—perhaps more—were revealed.
Given their ineptitude Malamud has suggested the IRS shut down their 527 group database until they can get their house in order. It’s quite shocking really when you consider how much trouble the IRS is in already for their excessive data gather efforts with respect to 527 groups aligned with conservative advocacy that they’re now getting in trouble for being too lazy with regard to how information about these organizations is safeguarded. If you consider the above quote from the article, they missed over 10% of the 990-T forms that were in the sample release and that 10% allowed thousands of Americans’ information to get released into the wild.
I’ll give the IRS the benefit of the doubt in that I believe this was incompetence, not deliberate. There’s no evidence that they were focused on conservative groups in this blunder, but the real problem is that as we learn more and more about the extent of the government’s data gathering efforts slip ups like this mistake shake one’s confidence in their ability to actually keep the information.
This situation brings to mind a clip from an old Seinfeld episode where he’s complaining about a rental car company’s ability to follow through on reservations… the government knows how to collect the data – anyone can collect data really. The government’s problem is it doesn’t know how to keep the data secure and private – which is the essential problem associated with data collection in the first place.
In happier news, at least for him, Eric Bradner, the Indiana Statehouse bureau chief for the Evansville Courier & Press announced via Twitter that he’s going to be leaving that position for a policy reporting job at Politico. I’m sure we will all be following his work in Washington.
Tonight is the Indiana Republican Party‘s dinner where many officers will be marking their last day on the job. It should be a nice sendoff for the departing officers as well as a re-introduction of Governor Mike Pence‘s selection to lead the party moving forward, current State Auditor Tim Berry. We’ll bring you any interesting updates from the dinner tonight.