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Government

Census employees inadvertantly post citizen data

Testing new software, employees mixed real and fictional data.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor on

The Census Bureau posted personal information from 302 households on a public Internet site multiple times over a five-month period, the bureau said today, the AP reports.

Names, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates and family income ranges, but not Social Security numbers, said spokeswoman Ruth Cymber.

"A breach of this kind is unacceptable," Census Director Charles Louis Kincannon said in a statement. "We are strengthening our internal procedures to further safeguard our data to prevent a recurrence."

The information was posted when employees working from home were testing new software. They inadvertently mingled data from the bureau's Current Population Survey with the fictional data they were supposed to be using. A release from the bureau said "appropriate administrative action" has been taken, pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation.

The incident comes six months after the Census Bureau acknowledged losing 672 laptop computers since 2001, including 246 that contained personal data. Most of the computers were used by workers gathering survey information in communities.
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