Texas Error Exposed Over 13 Million Millions of Voters’ Social Security Numbers (updated)

I don’t know how he is on other issues, but Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is one of the most active AG’s when it comes to pursuing those who dump data or don’t secure it properly. I can only imagine how mortified he must be by this breach, which thankfully, could have been much worse if the data had fallen into the wrong hands. 

From 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.

Read more on Lone Star Project.

According to the Texas Secretary of State web site, Texas had 13,269,233 registered voters in the November 2010 election.

Update: The Houston Chronicle subsequently got a statement from the state that indicates that perhaps half of the voters in the database had full Social Security numbers in the database.  And while the state points out that the data were never exposed publicly, the fact remains that the data should not have been provided to the attorneys, even under protective order and even with encryption.  That the breach was contained by the ethical response of the parties involved and their legal obligations is noted, but it was still a serious mistake on the state’s part.

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