It was recently discovered that the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) does not disclose regular data breaches that are caused by incorrectly classifying individuals as either living or deceased.
The problem stems from the SSA's data entry personnel inputting the wrong information when classifying citizens. However, the mistakes and subsequent breaches affect fewer than 1 percent of the 2 million deaths that are reported and recorded each year in the organization's Death Master File (DMF).
According to a recent InformationWeek report, the DMF is then sold to clients of the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Technical Information Service as a data security measure to prevent identity theft. However, it constitutes a data breach when the citizens are actually living, the report stated.
What's more, citizens' whose names appear on the DMF are subjected to other issues, as well. For example, many are turned down for loans, have services cancelled or miss out on job opportunities because organizations believe they are either deceased or attempting to commit fraud.
"[M]any of the affected people don't know that their data has been exposed, or that they've even been included in the DMF database," Matthew Schwartz wrote for the news provider. "In part, that's because while 47 out of 50 states now have data breach disclosure laws on their books, those requirements don't cover data handling by federal government agencies."
Similar issues also plague the healthcare industry, according to the Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS). Last month, the industry group urged its member base to lobby Congress to pass a "nationwide patient identity solution" that will prevent incorrect information from making its way into medical records.
According to HIMSS, 8 to 14 percent of medical records in the United States contain erroneous information related to the patient's identify. This has led to mistakes in patient care.
However, this problem may not be as widespread as it could be for the SSA. In the past three years, according to the Republic newspaper in Columbus, Indiana, 31,931 people have been affected by the SSA's mistakes. That has resulted in frozen bank accounts, contract cancellations and loan rejections for the victims, according to InformationWeek.
Data protection is becoming increasingly necessary for organizations as they switch to electronic records, but many are failing to recognize the importance of securing information. According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report, only 47 percent of organizations polled said they have addressed privacy and security issues related to electronic records even though 74 percent plant to increase their reliance on the new technology.
Data Security News from SimplySecurity.com by Trend Micro