State Politics

Florida releases personal data on 13,000 people, issues ‘fraud’ alert

TALLAHASSEE -- For the second time in two months, Gov. Rick Scott’s administration has acknowledged it inadvertently released confidential personal data of private citizens, prompting the state to offer free credit monitoring services to protect people from being victims of identity theft.

The Department of State said it released names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of about 13,000 people who were on waiting lists for services for the developmentally disabled in 2003, when Jeb Bush was governor. The information was included in emails that the state released last year to Bush, who’s exploring a run for president in 2016.

The release of the information caused a sensation in February after Bush created a web site and posted about 333,000 emails, including those with the Social Security numbers, to show his support for transparency.

But the Department in an online news release last Friday accepted responsibility for releasing the information to the former governor.

A Bush spokeswoman said in February that it removed all of the protected information it could find from the site, jebemails.com.

Florida has among the broadest public records laws of any state, but Social Security numbers are exempt from disclosure in most cases. State and local governments usually routinely redact or black out such information before providing public records.

In the May 22 agency statement, the Department of State urged affected individuals to review their credit histories and place free “fraud alerts” on their credit files.

The state also has hired a private company, LifeLock, to provide free identity theft protection for one year for anyone whose Social Security number was released. The state said people who believe their personal information was disclosed can contact the Department of State at (850) 245-6068 to arrange for free credit monitoring service if the state determines they were affected.

“The department is trying to help citizens,” said Department of State spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice. “The department determined that LifeLock was the best vendor for this service.”

On March 31, the agency acknowledged that it released private data on more than 45,000 voters who hold “high-risk” jobs such as police, prosecutors, public defenders and judges, who can choose to keep their dates of birth, home and email addresses, and telephone numbers confidential.

In that case, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said his office gave the data to 15 groups or individuals who requested copies of the statewide voter database, and cited a defect in automated software which the state said had been repaired.

Contact Steve Bousquet at bousquet@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263. Follow @stevebousquet

  Comments