Chris Ogle of New Zealand was in Oklahoma about a year ago when he bought a used MP3 player from a thrift store for $9. A few weeks ago, he plugged it into his computer to download a song, and he instead discovered confidential U.S. military files.
"The more I look at it, the more I see, and the less I think I should be," Ogle said with a nervous laugh in an interview with TVNZ.
The files included the home addresses, Social Security numbers and cell phone numbers of U.S. soldiers. The player also included what appeared to be mission briefings and lists of equipment deployed to hot spots in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of the information appears to date to 2005.
The New Zealand journalist who first reported the story was able to contact at least one of the soldiers by dialing a phone number found in the files. He hung up once she explained why she was calling.
Pentagon officials told CNN that they are aware of the MP3 player, but can't talk about it until investigators confirm that the information came from the U.S. Department of Defense.
"The government isn't doing a good job of protecting the information that it collects," said Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington.
Despite government efforts to protect sensitive information, this is a growing problem, privacy experts say.
Of Course a few years ago the VA lost a laptop containing thousands of Social Security Numbers, and breaches with HHS and CMS (Medicare/Medicaid) are extremely rare they have occurred. But this instance with the sensitivity of such information is more like the rash of discoveries of British Spy Papers this past Summer on the London Train.
Still, it gives new and perilous meaning to one man's trash is another man's treasure. And this happened under the watchful eye of the Bush Administration? Go figure.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009