IBM Exposes Employees' Personal Data


As IBM launches products to help customers protect their data, it admits losing track of its own backup tapes.

The tapes were lost on Feb. 23, at an intersection about five miles from its headquarters in Armonk, N.Y., as a contractor was transporting them to be stored, says spokesman Fred McNeece. The tapes included Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and employment dates for an unnamed number of people.

McNeece won't say what happened to the tapes--The Associated Press reports that they fell off a truck--but says IBM hasn't found them. Some of the tapes were encrypted, and none can be read without specialized equipment, he says.

Like Providence Health in Portland, Ore., whose tapes containing 20 years' worth of patient data were stolen in 2006 (see Baseline's December cover story), IBM has hired New York-based firm Kroll to help clean up the mess. With Kroll's help, IBM set up a call center and sent letters and offers of free credit monitoring to the victims.

The day the story broke, on May 15, IBM was pitching reporters on new software and services to help companies secure their data and manage risk. McNeece says the timing was a coincidence. He says the story was reported first by the Poughkeepsie Journal, on April 23.

IBM is the seventh organization since January to lose backup tapes, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. It joins the IRS, WellPoint Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Hortica Insurance, JP Morgan and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in exposing information on millions of people.