A short while ago, Newt Gingrich argued during a presidential debate that private firms like Mastercard or Visa could be trusted to prevent a national e-verify database from being crippled by fraud. A recent story in the San Antonio Express-News gives us reason to be skeptical about the notion that a private bureaucracy will necessarily succeed in protecting vital personal information:
One of the Pentagon’s largest contractors said late Wednesday it had discovered a data breach affecting as many as 4.9 million patients who have received care from military facilities in San Antonio since 1992.
Science Applications International Corp. said the breach involved backup computer tapes from an electronic health care record. Some of the information included Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers and private health information for patients in 10 states.
This isn’t quite a disaster, and it’s certainly less egregious than the British data privacy breach in 2007 and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs blunder of 2006. But it’s a reminder that the quest for foolproof security is for fools.