IRS Breach Exposes Thousands of Social Security Numbers
by Terri Eyden on
By Ken Berry
In the wake of revelations that the IRS wrongfully targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status and squandered taxpayer funds at training conferences, another bungle by the nation's tax collection agency has come to light. The IRS now confirms that it inadvertently posted Social Security numbers of tens of thousands of Americans on a government website. The identifying numbers relate to transactions by nonprofit political groups known as 527s.
The mistake was first exposed by Public.Resource.org, an independent public-interest group. Founder Carl Malamud estimates that as many as 100,000 numbers may have been compromised.
Malamud's group first learned of the problem last week during an unrelated audit involving a shipment of IRS data on DVDs. It promptly informed the IRS, which shut down the site less than twenty-four hours later. Nevertheless, the breach of the sensitive information could still be damaging.
Periodically, 527s are required to file reports with the IRS, which are then added to a database. The database is hardly a secret - in fact, it's well-known to political insiders in Washington - but Malamud noticed several instances where Social Security numbers were accidently revealed. Calling the IRS actions "unprofessional and amateur," he posted a statement on the group's website saying that it hopes the Obama administration will act to restore access to the database soon and resolve concerns over this "serious violation of federal law."
"It is time now for the administration to send a tiger team over to the [IRS] to help fix their information management practices," Malamud told FoxNews.com. As of the morning of July 9, the site was still down.
An IRS spokesperson responded to FoxNews by saying it had removed access to the information "out of an abundance of caution." The IRS spokesperson also said the agency is "assessing the situation and exploring available options."