Personal information from hundreds of property owners was available on the City of Beloit’s website, and the city doesn’t know for sure how long it was online.
The information available was in the Document Center on the city’s website, and included Social Security numbers, dates of birth and possible financial information.
Eric Miller, finance and administration director for the city, said the information was available for no more than three years, but isn’t sure exactly how long it was up on the website.
The city was informed about the personal information on Aug. 20, and removed all the documents immediately, said Beth Jacobsen, assistant to the city manager. Legally, the city must notify those who could be affected within 45 days.
About 843 people were sent letters on Friday indicating personally identifiable information was “potentially accessed by the public” through the city’s document center on the city’s website. Of the 843 people, the city has confirmed 500 are now deceased, Jacobsen said. A letter was sent to the deceased person’s estate for notification.
Jacobsen said the information was in the city’s Assessor’s Office records, and all those possibly affected were involved in a property transfer of some kind. She said the city had documents scanned in for record-keeping purposes, but failed to redact some personal and financial information from the documents when they were used to update property records.
The information has since been taken down, and Jacobsen said legally the city was required to notify all those that could have been affected.
The documents containing the personal information came from a variety of sources including property owners themselves and other government agencies such as divorce records or death records.
“We sincerely apologize,” Jacobsen said. “It was obviously an oversight on our part.”
Jacobsen said the information was not in a place on the website where there is normally a high volume of activity, so it is believed the risk of the information falling into the wrong hands is low. However, those who receive the letter are encouraged to call the Federal Credit Reporting Act to get a free copy of their credit report. Reports are available at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Jacobsen said the city did a full audit on the information up on the city’s website, and has gone over procedures on information that is available to the public.
“We have updated our procedures internally for employees dealing with private information,” she said. “We have audited everything. We are now redacting information on documents so if it is ever scanned in, this won’t happen again.”