Disaster Victims Data Breach

FEMA ‘major privacy incident’ reveals data from 2.5 million disaster survivors

The Federal Emergency Management Agency shared personal addresses and banking information of more than 2 million U.S. disaster survivors in what the agency acknowledged Friday was a “major privacy incident.”

The data mishap, discovered recently and the subject of a report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, occurred when the agency shared sensitive, personally identifiable information of disaster survivors who used FEMA’S Transitional Sheltering Assistance program, according to officials at FEMA. Those affected included the victims of California wildfires in 2017 and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, the report said.

In a statement, Lizzie Litzow, FEMA’s press secretary, said, “FEMA provided more information than was necessary” while transferring disaster survivor information to a contractor. “We believe this oversharing has impacted approximately 2.5 million disaster survivors,” said a Department of Homeland Security official who asked for anonymity to provide background information beyond the official FEMA statement.

Thanks to Bill Nicholson for the citation.

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