DHS Employees Sue TSA over Lost Hard Drive

 
 
By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2007-05-14 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A class action lawsuit claims that the loss of 100,000 records of employees at Department of Homeland Security constitutes a breach of the Privacy Act.

The American Federation of Government Employees is suing the Transportation Security Administration after the TSA lost a hard drive containing employment records for some 100,000 individuals.

The union represents employees throughout the Department of Homeland Security, including the TSA. Its class action lawsuit, filed within a day of the TSA announcing the missing hard drive, calls the loss of data a breach of the Privacy Act.
The hard drive, which the agency announced was missing on May 7, contains names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and payroll and bank account information.
In AFGE, et al v. Kip Hawley and TSA, the AFGE claims that by failing to establish safeguards to ensure the security and confidentiality of personnel records, TSA violated both the ATSA (Aviation and Transportation Security Act) and the Privacy Act of 1974. The ATSA mandates the TSA administrator to "ensure the adequacy of security measures at airports," and the Privacy Act directs that every federal agency have in place a security system to prevent unauthorized release of personal records.
"TSAs reckless behavior is clearly in violation of the law," AFGE National President John Gage said in the unions statement. "TSA must be held liable for this wanton disregard for employee privacy." The AFGE is seeking for the TSA to create new security procedures consistent with the ATSA and the Privacy Act, specifically by electronically monitoring any mobile equipment that stores personnel data and by encrypting personnel data. "The maintenance and safeguarding of personnel data is vital to the protection of security at our nations airports," Gage said in the statement. "If the stolen information were to fall into the wrong hands, false identity badges easily could be created in order to gain access to secure areas. This is the Department of Homeland Security we are talking about. The American people look to DHS for security and protection. A DHS agency that cannot even shield its own employee data is not reassuring." The union is also asking that the TSA grant leave to employees—specifically, what it calls transportation security officers—who request it in order to protect against or correct identity theft or financial disruption caused by identity theft. Stolen TJX data used in $8 million scheme before breach discovery. Click here to read more. The TSA discovered that the hard drive was missing on May 3. It contained records of people employed at the agency between January 2002 and August 2005. The drive was discovered missing from a controlled area at the TSA headquarters Office of Human Capital. As of last week, the agency still hadnt figured out if the drive is still somewhere within headquarters or in the hands of a thief. TSA has begun to notify the affected individuals and is providing them with information about how to protect against identity fraud. The agency is also working out a process to purchase credit monitoring services for affected employees for one year. Check out eWEEK.coms Security Center for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEKs Security Watch blog.
 
 
 
 
Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for eWEEK.com and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on eWEEK.com, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
 
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters























 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Thanks for your registration, follow us on our social networks to keep up-to-date
Rocket Fuel