GAO removes archived personal data from Web site

The General Accountability Office has pulled from its Web site personal information on certain government employees after discovering that the archived data had been inadvertently posted online.

In a recent notice, GAO said the data came from audit reports on Defense Department travel vouchers from the 1970s and included some service members' names, Social Security numbers and addresses. GAO estimates that fewer than 1,000 people were impacted.

David Walker, head of the GAO and comptroller of the U.S., ordered the agency to remove the data and directed officials to contact the Pentagon and other affected organizations and urge them to purge similar files.

Walker said the information was posted online when GAO began digitally archiving records and putting them on its Web site. Although he said the records "are of little public interest," Walker said his agency is "taking this very, very seriously."

GAO said an inspector general's office from another agency discovered the data.

The event is similar to a data leak discovered recently by the Navy, which said personal information on about 28,000 sailors and family members was found online.

Both occurrences follow a string of data breaches involving a number of federal agencies, including the departments of Agriculture, Energy and Veterans Affairs.

At the VA, a thief stole computer hardware containing data on 26.5 million current and former military personnel and their spouses. Since then, the IRS, the Energy Department and the Social Security Administration all have been victimized by data loss or theft.

Rob Thormeyer is a staff writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

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