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Private data still online after contact tracing leak


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
June 10, 2021
Data breach, budget blitz, PSERS revolt, BLM shooting, abortion bills, and pollen detectives take the case. It's Thursday, thanks for checking in.
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Personal information collected during coronavirus contact tracing calls in Pennsylvania is still available online in a document accessible to anyone with a link, Spotlight PA has learned, more than a month after the company responsible said the data had been secured.

The information, contained in an active Google spreadsheet, includes the names of people who were potentially infected with the coronavirus, along with their dates of birth, phone numbers, counties of residence, and notes related to their test status or other personal information.

The entries identify approximately 66 people — many of them minors, according to the birthdays listed.

Insight Global — the company the state Department of Health awarded a $23 million, federally funded emergency contract in July to conduct tracing — did not respond to requests for comment. Health department spokesperson Barry Ciccocioppo said the department was unaware the additional link was active and was investigating.

THE CONTEXT: The state and Insight Global in late April acknowledged the personal information of as many as 72,000 people had been stored insecurely in Google documents accessible to anyone with a link. The statement came in response to a report by Pittsburgh NBC affiliate WPXI, which obtained links to several spreadsheets containing details of those who had been contacted.

Spotlight PA's discovery raises questions about how many other documents with personal information might exist in the Google accounts of current and former employees, and therefore not immediately apparent to or under the control of the company or state officials.

“These seemingly innocuous pieces of information can be misused,” said one cyber security expert. “And right now, that is a more common use of information than what we have traditionally thought of in terms of data breaches and identity theft.”
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"It's a waste of money whether it's taxpayer dollars or not. If it's not taxpayers' money, then it's a waste of our legislators' time to be in Arizona."

—Khalif Ali, of Common Cause Pennsylvania, on the tab for three state lawmakers to visit and cheer Arizona's contested election audit

VACCINE UPDATE: House Republicans want to block millions in state funding for the University of Pennsylvania Health System, Philly's largest private employer, in protest of an employee vaccine requirement critics call discriminatory and supporters a necessary safeguard. For vaccine providers, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
» CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING: Join Spotlight PA for a live interview and reader Q&A with Sen. David Argall at 1 p.m. June 18. RSVP for FREE »
Thanks, @zees_plantsndecor, for tagging us in this photo of rhododendrons taken at the peak of the season in May. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.
SCHOOL MARKS: Gov. Tom Wolf is again drumming up support for more than $1 billion in new funding for public schools, this time without a related and contested income tax hike proposal, Spotlight PA reports. The push comes as Wolf and the GOP-controlled legislature enter the final weeks of budget negotiations with more money than expected.

PSERS REVOLT: A dissident group of trustees for Pennsylvania’s largest pension fund is seeking to gain majority support to fire the retirement plan’s chief executive and top investment officer, Spotlight PA and The Inquirer report. The move comes as the fund grapples with an FBI investigation and management mistakes.

CHARGES DROPPED: A local judge has dropped the most serious charges against a Bedford County man authorities say shot at Black Lives Matter protesters who marched past his home en route to Washington, D.C., striking one in the face. WJAC says some of the protesters testified Wednesday that Terry Myers used racial epithets against them, but none could say who fired what shots in the dark of night

IMMIGRATION CASE: A judge has greenlit a lawsuit alleging Berks County commissioners violated state law when they voted to support an expansion of the county's contested migrant detention facility without holding a public discussion first. The suit brought by immigration advocates can now proceed to trial, WITF reports. 

ABORTION BILLS: State Republicans are pushing ahead with a proposed ban on abortions prompted by a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis despite Gov. Tom Wolf vowing to veto the measure if it reaches his desk, per the AP. The House also advanced legislation on the handling of fetal remains this week.
MINE CLOSURE: Permanent layoffs will begin in August at a coal mine along the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border, Allegheny Front reports. Around 180 miners at the Monongalia County Coal Mine in Greene County have been notified. The mine was Pennsylvania's fifth-largest in 2019. 

TIL: Pollen is an "indestructible and powerful geo-locator" that's sometimes used to pinpoint locations and suspects in criminal investigations. The Inquirer explains one such investigation pegged, and later ruled out, Philadelphia's Morris Arboretum as the possible scene of a particularly heinous crime.

MARE FOR A DAY: Customers of a new Wawa in Upper Darby will get free coffee today, and a few will get free T-shirts. The occasion? It's "Mare of Easttown Day," an homage to the HBO show that launched a million Delco-based parodies. Wawa is also rolling out a limited-edition spicy cheesesteak.

MOVIE DEAL: Two Pittsburgh siblings made a dramedy about an aspiring actress who leaves New York City and returns to Pittsburgh for the love she left behind. "Back for Good" was filmed four years ago, but The Incline says its themes of crisis and transition are especially resonant now.

IN MEMORIAM: This week marks three years since the death of author and chef Anthony Bourdain, whose travel shows brought him to Philadelphia in 2012, his home state (and contrarian cheesesteak capital) of New Jersey in 2015, and finally Pittsburgh in 2017.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Palindrome

Congrats to our daily winners: Neal W., Craig W., Susan D., Suzanne S., Paul H., Paul M., Bill C., Irene R., Craig E., Joel S., Dianne K., George S., Elaine C., Meg M., Dennis M., Barbara A., Elizabeth W., Don H., Clayton L., James B., David W., Myles M., Carol D., Don H., Michelle T., Bruce T., Kim C., Richard D., and Bob R.
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