Privacy Law Update: Federal Phone Program Releases Sensitive Personal Information.
Journalists from Scripps have reportedly uncovered a large-scale data breach of confidential personal information through a simple Google search. Multiple media outlets are reporting that the breach involves data entrusted to Lifeline, a federal program for low-income individuals that offers subsidized phone service. The released information appears to include sensitive information that could make customers vulnerable to identity theft including social security numbers, driver's licenses, passports, financial and tax records, and other personal information. Customers from as many as 26 states may have reportedly been affected.
The release of an individual's private and confidential information can greatly increase their susceptibility to identity theft. Strategy & Research reports that in 2011 alone, 11.6 million Americans were the victims of identity theft. A person's confidential information can be used to commit a variety of fraudulent acts, including making unauthorized credit card charges, submitting fraudulent tax returns, and withdrawing funds from the victim's financial accounts. Criminals often turn to the internet to obtain personal information necessary to carry out these schemes and to share the information with others. It is therefore critically important that organizations entrusted with private information take appropriate and effective measures to prevent access by unauthorized users.
Recognizing the immense threat that identity theft poses, several states including Massachusetts and New Hampshire have passed laws allowing individuals to bring private lawsuits to recover damages for the release of their confidential information. In some cases, common law claims based on negligence, invasion of privacy, or fraud may also be available. A California law has taken the additional step of providing individuals with the right to recover $1,000 per offense regardless of whether they have suffered any actual harm. Such laws are constantly evolving as legislatures seek to keep up with changes in the way data is stored and exchanged.
If you believe your confidential personal information may have been released without your authorization it is critical that you find an attorney that is knowledgeable and experienced in handling similar cases. Dreyer Boyajian LLP has worked extensively on matters involving privacy violations, consumer fraud, and the unauthorized release of confidential information. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our attorneys.