Government Data Protection: Another Day, Another Lost Laptop

In what is becoming an all-to-regular development, another U.S. government agency suffered a breach of confidential information. This time, a laptop containing sensitive medical information on 2,500 patients enrolled in a National Institutes of Health clinical trial was stolen in February. As is par for the course, NIH is only getting around to reporting it now. In a letter to affected individuals, Andrew Arai, a laboratory chief at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), said the laptop was stolen from the trunk of his car. He told the patients that some personally identifiable information was on the stolen computer, including names, birth dates, hospital medical record numbers and MRI information reports, such as measurements and diagnoses. Social Security numbers, phone numbers, addresses and financial information were not on the laptop, officials said. We’re supposed to find this last part reassuring.