Boulder County exposes jail inmates’ Social Security numbers

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The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office has released the Social Security numbers of several inmates at the county jail on its website, CPR News reported Tuesday.

The personally identifiable information was included in daily lists of hundreds of inmates published on the sheriff’s website.

Emily Katsiyanis, who is on a work release from prison, confirmed that her full social security number was listed next to her name. CPR News contacted Katsiyanis after finding her name on the list and verifying that the SSN was hers.

“I feel betrayed that they wouldn’t keep something so important safe,” she wrote in a text message to CPR News. “It was something I had absolutely no control over and… I entrusted the prison with that information.”

A relative of another inmate first told CPR News about the data breach, confirming that his brother’s full SSN was listed in plain text.

The personally identifiable information was contained in a spreadsheet that is published daily with details of inmates.

The file contained identifying numbers in the usual SSN style – for example “123-45-6789” – for a total of 16 prisoners. More than 400 other prisoners also had nine-digit numbers attached to their names, except without dashes – for example, ‘123456789’. More than 150 of those numbers fell into the range of SSNs associated with people born to Colorado parents.

CPR News could not confirm how many of the numbers were actually Social Security numbers. The information appeared on prisoner lists reviewed by CPR News for several days, including December 15, December 18, and December 19.

CPR News contacted the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office just before 1 p.m. Tuesday about the personally identifiable information. Within 90 minutes, the information was removed from the online lists.

The sheriff’s office released a statement about the leak Tuesday night: “We sincerely apologize to everyone affected and will do everything we can to make sure this never happens again.”

The accidental release began after a glitch crashed the daily reporting system on Dec. 15, the office reported. When the system rebooted, someone misconfigured it, which caused the SSNs to be published, the sheriff’s office said.

Social Security numbers are contained in a spreadsheet column titled “Charges,” which normally contains information about the criminal charges a person faces.

“To get the list operational again, the data was re-exported. When the query was rebuilt for the historical Excel export, an incorrect field was selected for the cost field that contained the social security number,” the statement said. .

The statement continued: “Going forward, our IT staff will conduct a daily review to ensure that the information in our online prison reports does not contain information that is not public data. We are also working to notify affected inmates and assist them in protecting their credit.”

Janene McCabe, a criminal defense attorney and the vice president of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, said her reaction to the breach was “shock and dismay.”

She added: “We are committed to protecting inmates’ information… and here the prison publishes it publicly – an entity whose job it is to protect our clients’ privacy rights from public view.”

McCabe said she’s seen individual cases where a defendant’s identifying information has been accidentally included in forms, but never one that potentially affects hundreds of people.

Katsiyanis wondered if the prison would give her access to a consumer identity protection service, as companies often do when faced with a data breach. McCabe agreed that the county owed so much to the affected people, as the leaked SSNs could be used by identity thieves.

“First, they need to let everyone know whose social security numbers have been publicly leaked. No. 2, I think they have a duty to provide some kind of protection to these customers,” she said. “They have no idea that their public information is out there, that it’s been leaked.”

The sheriff’s office has promised to help people’s credit but hasn’t yet decided how to do that, a spokesperson told CPR News.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated December 20, 2022 with commentary from the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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