Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Social Security data puts 1.3 million voters at risk

Yesterday's Chicago Sun-Times featured this story by Art Golab reporting on a class action lawsuit that was filed Monday stemming from the release of more than 1.3 million registered voters' Social Security numbers by the Chicago Board of Elections. Excerpts are below.


Lead plaintiff in the suit is 43rd Ward aldermanic candidate Peter Zelchenko, who discovered the security breach and who also uncovered a similar problem last October on the board's Web site. The most recent release of at least 100 compact discs to alderman and ward committeemen, with another six discs unaccounted for, was revealed on Monday in the Sun-Times.

The suit, filed by attorney Nicholas Kefalos, alleges the board violated the Illinois Personal Information Protection Act and seeks unspecified compensation for all Chicago voters whose Social Security numbers were disclosed.

"Actual damages could be $50 or $100 for each person to at least establish a credit watch," Kefalos said.

The CDs also included birth dates, phone numbers and addresses.

"You couldn't have come up with a better threat for identity fraud if you had orchestrated it," Zelchenko said.

But board spokesman Tom Leach said most of the CDs were distributed three years ago, and that since then there has been "absolutely no evidence" of identity theft.

"We don't want the message to get out that there should be panic in the streets," Leach said.

The board is attempting to retrieve the discs.

Though required by law to notify voters of the breach, Leach said the board will not do so individually, but will instead advertise.

So, right now, voters have no way of knowing whether their information was exposed.

But since the board stopped collecting full Social Security numbers about three years ago, those who registered earlier are at greater risk.

Kefalos said that people who register with Zelchenko's Web site,, will be notified if their Social Security numbers were exposed as soon as the courts give permission.

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