Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Boston Globe wraps papers in subscribers' personal information

The Boston Globe is doing a major mea culpa after thousands of bundles of its paper were distributed with subscribers' personal information on the back of paper used to wrap the bundles. From the Globe itself:

Subscriber credit data distributed by mistake - The Boston Globe

Credit and bank card numbers of as many as 240,000 subscribers of The Boston Globe and Worcester Telegram & Gazette were inadvertently distributed with bundles of T&G newspapers on Sunday, officials of the newspapers said yesterday.

The confidential information was on the back of paper used in wrapping newspaper bundles for distribution to carriers and retailers. As many as 9,000 bundles of the T&G, wrapped in paper containing subscribers' names and their confidential information, were distributed Sunday to 2,000 retailers and 390 carriers in the Worcester area, said Alfred S. Larkin Jr., spokesman for the Globe.

In addition, routing information for personal checks of 1,100 T&G subscribers also may have been inadvertently released.

The Globe and T&G, which are both owned by The New York Times Co., share a computer system.

The release of the data is another in a long list of high-profile incidents in which companies, universities, and federal and state agencies have had sensitive financial information lost or stolen.

Globe and T&G officials said the newspapers have notified the four major credit card companies -- American Express, Discover, MasterCard, and Visa -- of the problem. The newspapers will turn over the card numbers of subscribers who may have been affected to the companies upon request. As of last night, Mastercard and Visa have asked for the details. The newspapers are doing the same thing with banks of customers who may be affected.

About 227,000 Globe subscribers pay by credit or bank cards, although it's unclear exactly how many had their information released. Larkin, however, said a reconstruction of the errors suggests a majority of those affected are Globe subscribers.

The newspapers have also set up a hot line, 1-888-665-2644, for customers to call to learn whether their financial information may have been distributed. As an extra precaution, newspaper officials also urged subscribers to contact their credit card companies if they are concerned about unauthorized transactions....

Ok. This is obviously a screw-up, but I'm left scratching my head about how this information went from accounting to bundling without anybody doing anything?

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