Fujitsu Consulting first notifying people of July 2008 breach (commentary)

When a package containing an electronic storage device was lost in transit between Fujitsu Consulting offices in New York City and Montreal by an overnight courier on July 28, 2008, the unnamed courier service and law enforcement were immediately notified. It is only now, however, that 3,410 individuals associated with Travelers Insurance Company are being notified that their names and Social Security numbers were on the lost device. It is not clear from available reports whether the individuals are employees or consumers. Nor is it clear how many other companies and individuals may be affected by the data loss.

According to a notification (pdf) letter sent to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office by their lawyers on April 2nd, “The device lost had information from many information technology projects.” Neither Fijitsu’s attorneys nor their media relations department have responded to an inquiry as to how many clients had data on the lost device and how much of it was personally identifiable information.

Eight months to reconstruct what was on the device and to notify those affected? That seems unacceptably long by current standards, even though there may be no current laws requiring faster notification. Fijutsu’s lawyer explains, “Since the loss of that data. Fujitsu has been diligently combing through the data for instances of sensitive personal information.” Diligence is fine. Indeed, it’s necessary, but there is also a timeliness factor. If our federal government ever gets around to passing a data breach notification law with teeth, hopefully they will include some time frame such as that included in the recently passed stimulus bill for PHI-related breaches, which states:

(1) IN GENERAL.—Subject to subsection (g), all notifications required under this section shall be made without unreasonable delay and in no case later than 60 calendar days after the discovery of a breach by the covered entity involved (or business associate involved in the case of a notification required under subsection (b)).

Neither Fijitsu nor Travelers have responded to requests for additional information about this incident, leaving me wondering how many other people may first discover in weeks to come that their data were lost last summer.

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