In one of the largest breaches of data security to date, CitiFinancial, the consumer finance subsidiary of Citigroup, announced yesterday that a box of computer tapes containing information on 3.9 million customers was lost by United Parcel Service last month, while in transit to a credit reporting agency.
Executives at Citigroup said the tapes were picked up by U.P.S. early in May and had not been seen since.
The tapes contained names, addresses, Social Security numbers, account numbers, payment histories and other details on small personal loans made to millions of customers through CitiFinancial's network of more than 1,800 lending branches, or through retailers whose product financing was handled by CitiFinancial's retail services division.
The company said there was no indication that the tapes had been stolen or that any of the data in them had been compromised.
The above is from Tom Zeller, Jr.'s "Personal Data for 3.9 Million Lost in Transit" from this morning's New York Times.
In other privacy news in the Times, Shirley e-mails to note Robert Pear's "Ruling Limits Prosecutions of People Who Violate Law on Privacy of Medical Records:"
An authoritative new ruling by the Justice Department sharply limits the government's ability to prosecute people for criminal violations of the law that protects the privacy of medical records.
The criminal penalties, the department said, apply to insurers, doctors, hospitals and other providers - but not necessarily their employees or outsiders who steal personal health data.
In short, the department said, people who work for an entity covered by the federal privacy law are not automatically covered by that law and may not be subject to its criminal penalties, which include a $250,000 fine and 10 years in prison for the most serious violations.
The reasoning is that federal regulations establish the standards for medical privacy. The regulations apply just to "covered entities," including insurers and health care providers. Thus, only covered entities can be prosecuted for criminal violations of the law.
From "National Briefing," we'll note:
MICHIGAN: BAIL FOR KURD
A federal judge has ordered a Kurd released on bail while he appeals his deportation to Turkey and questioned the government's motives in bringing terrorism charges against a "model immigrant." Judge Avern Cohn of Federal District Court in Detroit set bail at $50,000 on Friday for the man, Ibrahim Parlak, but postponed the release order for 10 days so the government could appeal. The government says Mr. Parlak had ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, classified a terrorist group in 1997 by the State Department. His supporters say that he was never involved in violence and that he could face reprisals in Turkey. Mr. Parlak, 43, has been jailed since his arrest last July. He was granted asylum in 1992.(AP)
Steve e-mails to note Joel Brinkley and David E. Sanger's "O.A.S. Hears Bush Press Congress on Central America Trade Pact:"
Also under discussion here is an American proposal to give the organization authority to monitor the exercise of democracy in the region, and Mr. Bush seemed to allude to that when he said, "Democratic change and free elections are exhilarating events, yet we know from experience that they can be followed by moments of uncertainty."
The original American monitoring proposal is essentially dead, but officials and diplomats said a new plan was taking shape.
American officials pointed to José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the organization, as a top supporter of their plan. But during a meeting with reporters on Tuesday, Mr. Insulza made clear that his support was only conceptual and that he did not agree with everything the United States had proposed.
Wally e-mails to note Alan Cowell's "Britain Suspends Referendum on European Constitution:"
The announcement to Parliament by Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, laid bare the gulf between nations like France and Germany that want to keep alive a sense that the constitution can be rescued, and Britain, where the government is under pressure to declare it dead. The move seemed to make ratification of the constitution, a cornerstone of European unity, all the more remote.
"The European Union does now face a period of difficulty," Mr. Straw said.
Technically, the constitution can come into force only if it is ratified by all 25 European Union member governments. Nine have approved it by parliamentary votes and one - Spain - by referendum. The "no" votes in France and the Netherlands seemed to many British legislators to have brought the ratification process to a shuddering halt.
Gina e-mails to note Marlise Simons' "World Court to Investigate Darfur Violence:"
Prosecutors for the International Criminal Court announced Monday that they had begun an investigation into war crimes in Sudan, opening the door for indictments and warrants for those considered most responsible for the ethnic violence and starvation that has exterminated hundreds of villages in Darfur.
But the Sudanese government, blamed by a United Nations inquiry for much of the violence, has said it will not accept the court's jurisdiction. It has already begun to try to delay legal action by using some of the safeguards built into the court's rules, like insisting that it is conducting its own investigations and will hold its own trials.
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