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Identity Theft in “Wayne’s World”

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Monday’s (4/30/07) Oregonian story by Michelle Roberts and Bryan Denson, “Wayne’s worlds blur boundaries of law, sanity,” was interesting from more than one perspective. Toward the end of the story, we read:

Shortly after Skeen’s release, he called The Oregonian and said he wanted to continue championing the causes of psychiatric patients. He asked the reporter to give him a list of the names of state hospital workers. She refused.

A few days later, on July 19, 2004, James Sellers, a public information officer for the Oregon Department of Human Services called the reporter. Sellers asked whether she had received the employee list that her assistant, “Mike Allen,” had requested for her. The reporter told Sellers she had no assistant. Sellers said he had sent the information to an e-mail account that wasn’t a working e-mail address for the newspaper. After that conversation, the reporter phoned Skeen, saying she suspected he had pretended to be her assistant to obtain information.”

What I want to know is why is a PIO or any other government employee sending lists of employee information to anyone without FIRST checking on the where that information is going? The alleged Oregonian “assistant” had a non-employer email address. Yes, I know there are lots of reasons for that, but you’re sending personal information for heaven’s sake. How hard is it to call the reporter and verify that s/he is the person who will get the information? Enough personal information security lapses occur without anyone being able to stop them; couldn’t we at least minimize the ones that occur due to negligence, incompetence, and stupidity? On the Internet no one knows you’re Wayne.

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