Um, Aren't You Guys Supposed To Count And Keep Track Of Stuff?

from the one-two-four-five dept

Government data leaks are becoming so common, they're hardly noteworthy anymore. But it does seem slightly ironic that the government agency tasked with counting the country's citizens and keeping track of all sorts of demographic data can't keep track of its own computers, as the news emerges that since 2001, the Census Bureau has lost 672 laptops, 246 of which contained people's personal information. It's also lost track of 15 of the PDAs census workers use to collect information, and 46 portable data storage devices. The best part? They've got no idea whose data, or how many people's was compromised, since the information workers collect is removed from the laptops at the end of every day -- though they are in the process of contacting the 558 households whose information was on the PDAs. But it gets better: other units within the Department of Commerce have lost another 500 or so laptops, in addition to those lost by the Census Bureau. It seems inevitable that, at some point, data leaks will come back to haunt private companies as their customers put a higher priority on data security and the impact of identity theft becomes more widespread. But the government's customers -- meaning us -- can't really take our business elsewhere, to a more secure vendor or retailer. So what motivation will they have to solve their leaky data problems?

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    dorpus, 22 Sep 2006 @ 9:28am

    EM Algorithm

    The knowledge is public domain in the first place. Missing data can also be filled in by the EM algorithm.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DeadlyOats, 22 Sep 2006 @ 9:51am

    But there is an alternative.....

    "But the government's customers -- meaning us -- can't really take our business elsewhere, to a more secure vendor or retailer."


    REVOLUTION!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DittoBox, 22 Sep 2006 @ 10:04am

    It has to be said...

    "So what motivation will they have to solve their leaky data problems?"

    Fully automatic assault rifles? :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2006 @ 10:06am

    Exactly how do you "lose" a laptop

    I don't get this - they will bill our soldiers for any little item of issued equipment that isn't returned (some even getting billed for stuff that was destroyed or which had to be cut off them to treat battlefield injuries) but yet they "lose" over 1000 laptops???

    I could understand in a large organization a couple here and there, but for the love of pete, 1000????

    It just reinforces my notion that there just isn't enough accountability in a gov't job, largely because of the pervasiveness of the attitude "its not like its OUR money!" (and I aim this at the career gov't "executive class", not the elected political animals).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      chris (profile), 22 Sep 2006 @ 12:28pm

      Re: Exactly how do you

      the government "loses" millions each year in small arms and ammunition. i was told that when i was in the army. which is funny, because losing munitions is a national security risk, and any soldier that loses a rifle, ammunition, or an explosive device gets thrown in jail.

      my personal tinfoil hat/black helicopter conspiracy theory is that these "losses" are how the government outfits CIA para-militaries and other black ops. like when we backed the taleban and the mujahadeen when they fought the soviets in the 80's.

      with all the scandals involving wiretapping and data mining, i would imagine they are using the "lost and found" program to outfit NSA spooks with the gear that they will need.

      it's just a theory tho, it's not like i have any proof.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2006 @ 10:12am

    Simple solution...

    Goverment buys only desktop machines.

    And, really, is there a goverment employee that is actually working when away from the office? Joe Bureaucrat needs a laptop so he can work late into the night from home off the clock. Right....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2006 @ 10:44am

      Re: Simple solution...

      yes, there are government officials that work when they are away from the office. hell their job IS to work when not in the office. A friend of mine works for BLS (bureau of labor statistics) he goes around collecting data on different companies, and he needs his laptop to record the data. if he had a desktop, his rate of data loss would increase because of losing papers and whatnot. or he could lug around his desktop....which defeats the purpose of a DESKTOP computer.

      it's not that they work late into the night while off the clock, it's when they work during the clock that requires them to be away from their desks.

      and i'm sure there are other gov't officals that spend more time out of their office than in. and i'm sure these people need electroic assistance to complete their job.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2006 @ 10:40am

    my personal information is public domain? i don't think my social security number is in the public domain. but if it is, can i have yours, dorpus?

    and what does the em have to do with anything? how could a expect/max function determine my address?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Greg, 22 Sep 2006 @ 10:42am

    Holy crap. Even looking just at the Census Department, not the total number, they've been losing laptops twice a week for the last five years. How horrible is your physical security, that that can happen so often for so long?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    lil'bit, 22 Sep 2006 @ 10:57am

    Lost or stolen

    What is the ratio of temporary employees to laptops "lost" in these gov't departments? How many are really lost (I'll bet less than .5%) and how many went home with employess and never returned (99.5%?)?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    jsnbase, 22 Sep 2006 @ 11:04am

    Owned by the government != public domain

    The solution is simple: all laptops should come pre-loaded with everybody's personal information.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sanguine Dream, 22 Sep 2006 @ 11:11am

    I know!


    So what motivation will they have to solve their leaky data problems?


    Simple. The information of a major politician or two needs to be stolen and used against them. I'll bet if Carl Rove got $20k in credit card bills that he doesn't remember (and I mean genuienly didnt know about not the usual political denial) something would be done.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      ForkBoySpam, 22 Sep 2006 @ 11:25am

      Re: I know!

      Great point Dream.....the right person's info gets taken and it'll be important. Right now they've only had to worry about us pee-ons information.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2006 @ 11:39am

    Less federal goverment and more state and local goverment. No one department should have all the access.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JG, 22 Sep 2006 @ 12:01pm

    PLEASE!

    Like state and local government employees would be any more effective at keeping track of computers? They'd simply lose less because there are less to lose. Here in MN our Dept of Revenue has lost about 5 laptops in the last year.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mike S., 22 Sep 2006 @ 12:04pm

    Where do I sign up for my year's worth of free credit monitoring this time?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Cantalwayswin, 22 Sep 2006 @ 12:21pm

    Maybe if all those laptops contained the personal information of the people they were assigned to, and their supervisors, then maybe they would not go missing so often.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Adam, 22 Sep 2006 @ 1:35pm

    well...

    have any of you ever "borrowed" hardware from work, never to return it again?

    i know "this friend" who has... lol,

    large, government agency, lots of employees... lots of borrowing...

    i bet most of those laptops werent STOLEN by id thieves... probably just permanently borrowed by employees..

    that, or half america's ID is now public domain... *shrug*

    (you choose, half empty or half full)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.