Census Bureau PDAs with citizen info were stolen

ustin-area residents were recently informed via letter that hand-held information collection devices that were used to store personal information had been stolen.

When the U.S. Census Bureau knocks on your door, do you get an warm feeling of participating in a little bit of history - or do you run and hide? More people are probably going to slip into the latter category as the news gets around that hundreds of Central Texans who participated in door-to-door U.S. Census Bureau surveys recently found their personal information may have been compromised, reports The Statesman.

Austin-area residents were recently informed via letter that hand-held information collection devices that were used to store personal information had been stolen. The devices stored information including names, addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth.

The bureau said password protection, encryption and other mandatory security measures made it unlikely that the information could be accessed by unauthorized users, and it knows of no instances in which personal information was improperly used.

The letters stated that no action should be taken unless suspicious activity was suspected. But the letter warned recipients that they should beware of any phone calls, e-mails or other communications from individuals claiming to be from the bureau or other official sources asking for information such as Social Security or driver's license numbers.

The security breach was discovered in the Department of Commerce's recent review of missing, lost or stolen laptops and potential breaches of personal identity data.

The department found that of the 2,400 hand-held devices used since 2004 to collect survey data in preparation for the 2010 Census, 15 devices containing personally identifiable information had been stolen. A total of 558 households were affected by the security breach.

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