Error puts nurses. personal data online

January 25, 2007

By Suzanne Hoholik

The names and Social Security numbers of 3,031 newly licensed nurses were posted online twice in the past two months.

The Ohio Board of Nursing received a call last week from a nurse who said she found the list on the agency.s Web site, said Betsy Houchen, the board's executive director.

She said the board investigated and found that a board employee accessed a government database while preparing a report but failed to remove the Social Security numbers before posting it.

The list was not on the board's home page but was on a link from Jan. 12 to Jan. 16.

The investigation also found that another report with personal information was posted from Nov. 14 to Nov. 27.

The employee has been disciplined, Houchen said.

"The board is very sorry for this mistake, and we are concerned for the licensees and any impact our error could have on them," she said.

The board sent letters to the nurses on the lists explaining the mistake and warning them to monitor their credit reports.

Other groups, including Ohio University and Ohio State University Medical Center, have either posted personal information online or have had information stolen from their computer systems, and in such cases have said they will pay for a year of credit monitoring for the victims. This week, Nationwide announced that the personal information of tens of thousands of customers had been stolen. Nationwide also offered to pay for credit monitoring.

The nursing board, however, said it won't pay.

"We don't have any confirmation of any misuses resulting from the error," Houchen said. "There were about 64 hits on that link and those could have been from our staff."

That's not good enough for one nurse who said her name and Social Security number was posted. She said she recently received a free copy of her credit report and doesn't want to pay for subsequent reports.

"Nothing is being done," said the nurse, who didn't want her name used for fear of further privacy issues.

Houchen said the board is taking safeguards to prevent the Social Security numbers from being posted again.

Barbara Nash, president of the Ohio Nurses Association, called the incident unfortunate and said the board should do what it can to help these nurses.

But Nash said she understands how this can happen.

"They're managing a lot of data for a lot of people," Nash said. "I know places like Ohio State and OU are managing a lot of data about a lot of people and unfortunately ... we make errors using those systems."

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