Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Greg Abbott duplicates a Susan Combs error

More than 13 million Texans had their SSNs left exposed to case lawyers working on the voter ID litigation. The Lone Star Project:

A legal brief filed by opponents of the Texas Voter Photo ID law reveals that Attorney General Greg Abbott exposed millions of Texas voters’ full Social Security numbers to possible theft and abuse.

The brief, filed Monday, April 23, 2012 states:

"...after vigorously fighting the production of data containing full Social Security numbers, Texas mistakenly produced to Intervenors data from the VR [voter registration] data base that contained full Social Security numbers." (Defendant-Intervenors’ Motion for Clarification of the Trial Schedule, 4/23/12, page seven.)

Texas voters escaped public release of their Social Security numbers only because of the vigilance of conscientious lawyers working against the Voter Photo ID bill. Rather than attach the files to documents circulated to other attorneys or expose them to access by the general public, opposing counsel immediately notified the AG’s office of the bungled release of private data. Abbott then, at the expense of Texas taxpayers, sent a courier to both New York and Washington, DC to retrieve the files. As the brief details:

"Intervenors immediately notified the State and, at the State’s request, Intervenors ceased all review of the VR data that had been provided, with the State sending a representative from Texas to collect the VR data disks personally." (Defendant-Intervenors’ Motion for Clarification of the Trial Schedule, 4/23/12, page seven.)

Similar to the situation almost exactly one year ago, where state comptroller Susan Combs left Texans' data exposed online, Abbott's office has demonstrated another glaring degree of sloppiness in the handling of sensitive information.

Abbott’s negligence constitutes one of the largest risks of public identity theft in recent memory. Last year, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs received bitter criticism for releasing the Social Security numbers of 3.5 million Texans. In this most recent case, had the files not been handled carefully and responsibly by legal counsel opposing Abbott, as many as 13 million Texas voters’ Social Security numbers could have been exposed to potential illegal misuse and identity theft.

This data breach was larger in terms of numbers and smaller in terms of whom it was exposed to, but that's no excuse whatsoever. Another mistake like this by the OAG on the heels of the Comptroller's shows the vast incompetence of our state's executive office-holders. Someone forgot to implement any controls that may have been discussed to protect citizens' data after last year's snafu.

Abbott and Combs want a promotion to higher public office in 2014, too. Have they earned it? Will Texans just overlook these massive errors and vote for them again?

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