Oops, They Did It Again

Why did it take government officials more than four months to report loss of taxpayer records?

January 24, 2007

1 Min Read
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5:45 PM -- I guess it could be considered a political hot potato, if only the City of Kansas City and the Internal Revenue Service could put their hands on it. (See 26 IRS Computer Tapes Missing.) The tapes have been MIA since August.

That coast-to-coast throat-clearing noise? Don't worry -- it's the PR armies of our great nation hocking up still more boilerplate emails about how their clients' wares would have prevented this, and no, I would not like a briefing.

While the tapes were apparently shipped, there's no record of receipt, which complicates the backtracking not a little. K.C. officials are mystified. The IRS won't comment. While the tapes weren't encrypted, you can't pop them into any old drive and boot up all that precious taxpayer data. But it apparently wouldn't be a whole lot harder than that.

Granted, government agencies are just as prone as enterprises and small business to data loss. But in this age of compliance and transparency, why did it take more than four months for one of the parties involved to report it? Sets a crummy example, no?

That new sound? Just some new congressional staffer collecting evidence and trying to reconstruct a paper trail. After last year's Veteran Affairs' laptop loss, this new incident may provide fresh fodder for an indignant investigation.If only some gavel-banging could bring the tapes back. Just maybe it will put the data-losers on notice not to sit on their hands, hoping the tapes will turn up. Either way, I'm betting there's a whole lot more of this sort of undisclosed loss than any threat of penalty will deter.

Terry Sweeney, Editor in Chief, Byte and Switch

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