Security breach involves recent births

May 17, 2007

By Gayle White, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

State officials are warning parents of 140,000 Georgia babies that a security lapse has exposed some of their personal and medical information to the risk of fraud.

The Georgia Department of Human Resources mailed letters Wednesday to all parents of infants born in Georgia between April 1, 2006, and March 16, 2007, saying that paper records containing their Social Security numbers and information about their medical histories were improperly discarded.

The records do not contain names or addresses, said Stuart Brown, director of the state's Division of Public Health. He said there is no evidence that information from the records has been used improperly.

"It's a tremendous mistake on our part," Brown said. "It's worrisome for two reasons . one is we're concerned about the confidentiality of some of the information, and second, we're concerned that this will cause reduced assurance in the public health system."

Brown said the records were supplemental forms submitted by hospitals along with official birth certificates. The forms are supposed to be shredded after the information is entered into a computer for public health analysis, but he said amid staff turnover, the shredding was not done.

Staff at the state vital records facility at 1600 Skyland Drive N.E., Atlanta, discovered the breach in March after a television investigative reporter raised questions, Brown said. But, he said, his office was not notified until Tuesday.

Brown said his office is investigating how the mistake in disposal of records occurred and why he was not told.

"The internal investigations of who should have paid attention to this is ongoing," he said. "There will be discipline associated with this. It is completely unacceptable behavior."

Brown said the problem has been corrected and that the Division of Public Health is notifying credit bureaus of the possibility of fraud. He suggests that parents whose records are involved check their credit reports.

Earlier this year, the state's Department of Community Health disclosed that a computer disk containing confidential information on 2.9 milion Georgians was lost. The disk, containing Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses of people on Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids, is believed to have been lost by Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services in route from Atlanta to a Medicaid contractor in Maryland.

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