Most people know that private companies sell personal information over the Web just a few hundred dollars, but who would have guessed that the state of California was in the ID sales business, too? And undercutting the private operators to boot.
The San Jose Mercury News reports that California Secretary of State Debra Bowen has revealed that social security numbers, addresses and signatures of more than 650,000 Californians have been available for the mere sum of $6 each on a web site operated by the secretary of state's office.
The breach was discovered by the staff of Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, while researching a bill to try to combat identity theft.
The site used bank lending and collateral statements called Uniform Commercial Code filings – that were frequently purchased by financial institutions conducting loan research.
Bowen said the breach highlighted the balance the state must strike in providing public records, but also protecting personal privacy. Meeting both requirements, she said, "isn't always easy to do."
It hasn't been determined whether the information has ever been used to perpetrate identity theft crimes. Since the announcement, the web site has been shut down.
The documents will not be put back on line until they have been stripped of identifying information, Bowen said.