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Colorado County Puts Highly Confidential Information on the Internet reports that Mesa County in Western Colorado announced on December 2, 2010, that thousands of official computer records were mistakenly made available on the internet from April until November 24.
The records included such information as the names of confidential informants in drug cases, home addresses and family members’ names and other personal information of employees of the county sheriff’s office, emails between sheriff’s office employees about crime victims and homicide and other investigations, some of which included names, telephone numbers and addresses of involved persons.
An investigation has revealed that the information was first accessed from the internet on October 24. It was accessed “numerous” times after that by personal computers in the U.S. and Europe, and perhaps across the world. Nobody knows how many times, if at all, the information was downloaded for storage on a computer.
The sheriff has asked the FBI to assist in determining computer users who may have downloaded the highly sensitive information.
The person who released the information was working in the Mesa County Information Technology Department. Apparently, he mistakenly believed the website where the sheriff’s department information was stored was password-protected and encrypted. The unnamed person is no longer employed by the county.
As readers might expect, the potential civil liability of the county is mind-boggling. Informants’ very lives may be jeopardized. The sheriffs’ employees and their family members are exposed to identity theft and other criminal activity. This unfortunate event will likely have a long-lasting effect on every person whose name or other identifying information was released.