Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bureaucracy doesn't even work well for bureaucrats

Why did it take the Commerce Department so long to notify employees that their personal information, including Social Security numbers, had been let loose on the Internet?

On Monday, employees were informed by letters mailed to their homes about "a breach of protocol involving your Personally Identifiable Information (PII), including your Social Security number (SSN) and name."

The breach occurred on Dec. 4 -- more than seven weeks before workers were told. It took Commerce nearly four weeks to prepare the letter, which was dated Dec. 31.

The department took action to protect the information within hours of the breach, an official said. The delay in notification, however, was a bit harder to explain.

The letter was not written until officials gained information about the breach through the investigative process, said the official, who did not speak for attribution. Once the letter was written, it apparently got caught in a backlog of mail to be sent to employees, including W-2 income tax forms.

That's not the kind of explanation employees find comforting.