After accidentally releasing 50 Social Security numbers, the City of Madison has removed the leaked information from their website and is taking steps to protect those affected by the leak.
City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Beh said workers in the city clerk’s office had put up the social security numbers in error. However, most of the documents containing the Social Security numbers have been on the city’s legislative website since 2007, because they were originally on pages of liquor license application packets. She said these packets can be up to 30 pages long, so some information on them was overlooked before they were put on the city’s website.
She said some applicants had put their Social Security numbers on the website because they were using old, discontinued applications from the state.
One corporation applying for a license included a spreadsheet with their officers’ names, titles, addresses, home addresses, dates of birth and Social Security numbers, Witzel-Beh said. The City Clerk’s office does not request all this information for the application, she noted.
According to Sally Miley, an assistant to Mayor Paul Soglin, Social Security numbers are not required on such applications and applicants should never have provided the information.
The liquor license applications are put online as part of the Alcohol License Review Committee’s consideration process, Witzel-Beh said, with the applications put in a legislative file used to generate the ALRC’s agendas.
In response to the leak, Witzel-Bah said the Madison Police Department has cross-checked the 50 individuals for any reports of identity theft, which none reported, she said.
In addition, Miley said the city sent each of the 50 individuals a letter so they can follow up on the issue. The City of Madison is also offering a year of identity theft protection to those 50 people, Miley said
“We are sorry that it happened,” Miley said. “I know people get alarmed when they hear something like this has happened.”
In an effort to reassure the victims of the leak, Miley said a city employee found and reported that the Social Security numbers were on the website and there is no reason to believe anyone else found them.
Once alerted of the situation the city went through and deleted all the documents, she added.
A statement from the City of Madison said the documents were found Dec. 18, and the website was shut down and all the offending documents removed from it on the same day.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said criminals may not have found the information because the city legislative website would be an unusual location to find this information.
He said the city works hard to protect citizen’s personal information and even takes steps to prevent the release people’s dates of birth.
“We have to remain optimistic that criminals aren’t spending their time studying the city legislative website,” he said. “It’s a pretty dry website that your average criminal isn’t looking at.”