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State scrambles after personal details of 47,000 Floridians leaked

3:22 PM, Jun 24, 2013   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The Florida Department of Education is taking action to secure the personal information of about 47,000 college students after names, social security numbers and other identifying details were mistakenly put on the Internet.

Florida State University is responsible for the problem. The school was storing the personal data of students in a teacher preparation program as part of a contract with the Department of Education.

FSU's Florida Center for Interactive Media moved the information from one server to another and failed to close the security gate. So people's personal details were exposed for two weeks before someone noticed.

Now the Department of Education has set up a hotline to take calls from anyone in the teacher prep program with concerns. The department is also placing the personal information on its own servers and trying to contact every person affected by the data leak.

Spokesman Joe Follick said there's no evidence anyone has stolen the information.

"If even one person's information is taken and used illegally, then that's one person too many so that's why we're taking these steps to make sure everyone has the confidence they should have when their information is in our control."

Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett has ordered a review of the security of every database held by the department.

"This is unacceptable. All Floridians deserve our unceasing protection of their personal information and must have confidence that it will never be exposed for the potential of illegal use."

The Department of Education hotline number is 866-507-1109.

Operators are offering advice about protecting against identity theft. Florida will pay the cost of ID protection for those affected.

Follick said the DOE is taking the situation seriously.

"I think the bar is higher for the Department of Education when you have children and students and teachers and their personal data is in there. So Commissioner Bennett understands that. We are expediting the process to make sure that all the data we have in our possession is actually not contracted out and is directly within our control. If we're going to be held responsible for the security, we're going to be the ones providing that security."

Just two weeks ago, the Florida Department of Health was forced to review its security protocols for the state prescription drug database after medical details of about 3,000 Floridians leaked out.

Dave Heller

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