State works to purge Defelice data


Gregory B. Hladky

State officials were working with Google experts Tuesday to try to remove from the Internet the Social Security numbers of about 100 former employees of now-defunct L.G. Defelice Inc.

The legislature's Transportation Committee inadvertently posted the private identity information on a General Assembly Web site last week.

Sen. Donald DeFronzo, D-New Britain, the committee's co-chairman, said the Social Security numbers were posted as part of documents the panel received from the Department of Transportation. He said DOT officials were supposed to have blacked out all private information.

The committee asked for Defelice's payroll information in preparation for a series of legislative hearings on the controversial Interstate 84 project in Cheshire and Waterbury. Defelice is accused of committing widespread and costly construction errors, including more than 200 flawed storm drains.

"It's a nightmare right now," said one of the former Defelice employees whose Social Security number was posted on the Internet. The former employee and his wife, who live in a Greater New Haven town, agreed to talk about the posting of the Social Security numbers only if their names were not used.

Both are extremely concerned posting of private financial information on the Internet could lead to identity theft.

Although state officials said the Social Security numbers were removed from the Web site Thursday, that information is still floating about on the Internet and can be accessed through various search engines, such as Google. DeFronzo said officials are attempting to work with the search engine operators to get that information off the Internet.

DOT spokesman Judd Everhart said his agency initially believed all the Social Security numbers had been removed from information supplied to the legislature. He said committee staffers found more numbers and blacked them out before posting the information.

"Regrettably, still more Social Security numbers were in the material posted on the site," said Everhart. He said the DOT learned of the situation July 11 "and immediately took steps to have the material taken off the committee site."

DOT officials sent letters to the people whose Social Security numbers were exposed on the Internet, urging them to contact credit and identity theft prevention agencies to make sure no one was using the information illegally. They urged the people to have a "fraud alert" placed on their accounts.

But some of the letters were apparently sent to outdated addresses of former Defelice workers.

In the DOT letter, agency officials called the incident "a most regrettable situation and we apologize for the worry and inconvenience this has caused."

Everhart said that only the person that has an account can ask for a fraud alert.

"I think somebody should be fired," said the wife of the former Defelice employee. "My husband and most of the people on that list (of former Defelice employees) just want someone held accountable."

The woman said one of the former Defelice workers contacted his lawyer about a possible lawsuit against the state but was told a successful legal action would depend on proving that the state's action had directly caused harm to individuals involved.

"They just don't seem to care," the woman said of state officials.

DeFronzo said his committee was counting on the DOT to black out any personal information that shouldn't have been made public. He said his committee staff put information on the Internet as quickly as possible so committee members could review it before start of hearings on the I-84 scandal last week.

"Erroneously, we assumed this was all good material," DeFronzo said.

DOT officials "didn't do it intentionally and we didn't post it intentionally," DeFronzo said.

Asked whether the incident was an embarrassment to both the DOT and his committee, DeFronzo replied, "You would prefer that this kind of thing doesn't happen, sure."

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