CHAMBERSBURG – The Pennsylvania Department of Health employed an outside firm to help with contact tracing information about COVID-19 and it was announced Thursday that the there was a data breach.
The company, an Atlanta-based employment agency, called Insight Global, either did not encrypt things properly or had employees set up google accounts to share information and personal data of the people who agreed to the contact tracing.
How the breach happened is not entirely clear.
The contract with Insight Global was a $30 million, no-bid contract, which meant the state looked at no other firms for this contact tracing and paid them $30 million.
And when we say the state, we mean Governor Wolf.
The information involved in the breach included names, phone numbers, emails, genders, ages, sexual orientations and whether the person had COVID 19. No addresses or social security numbers, but a lot of information was subjected to discovery.
The data breach was a topic of discussion on News Talk Friday with State Representative Rob Kauffman, attorney Clint Barkdoll, Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen.
Ryan point-blank asked, “Was it the governor’s emergency declaration that would allow him this no-bid contract?”
Kauffman replied, “That’s exactly it. You can’t have no-bid contracts unless you’re running this as a dictatorship or a monarchy in these emergency declarations.”
YOU can take that ability away from the governor by going to the polls on May 18 and voting yes to the ballot initiatives.
“You can put an end to these endless states of emergency, these endless declarations and you can have your legislators once again have a voice in this process,” Kauffman said. “By voting yes that’s what happens.”
Jansen added, “Governor wolf has nobody but himself to blame for this because he refused to allow you guys to participate. He wouldn’t give you any information, he didn’t want your advice. He wanted nothing. He just took over.”
There is now an investigation under way as to what happened with the information from 72,000 Pennsylvanians who took part in the contact tracing with Insight Global.
Barkdoll noted, “But this is one of those things that you can’t put the toothpaste back into the tube. Once that data has been breached and is out there, it’s very difficult to cure a problem like this.”
Kauffman said, “This in itself demonstrates why people were not agreeing to be contact traced. They don’t trust government and right here is another reason why they shouldn’t trust government and the data that is being collected by no bid contract. It would be interesting to go back and see who is at the bottom of this company that got that no bid contract. This is disgusting. It just continues to pile on.”
If you are one of the people in the 72,000, you could get a call or a letter or an email from the state with suggestions on what you can do to protect your information.
Ryan wondered, “With the state contract are they protected by a class action if something actually happens here?”
Barkdoll said, “No they would not be. And I suspect you may see a lawsuit filed over this. This is a private vendor, yes acting under a state contract, but they could be subject to civil liability. Often in these data breech cases, the remedy is through courts, they will be required to pay for credit monitoring for several years if you’ve been a victim in this. There may even be some monetary compensation that would be due to the 72,000 people if some kind of an action got filed. I by no means think they (Insight Global) would be immune from liability in a case like this.”
The state has said they will not renew the contract with Insight Global and a hotline is being set up to see if your name is one of the 72,000.
Barkdoll said, “It’s unfortunate because any time something like this happens, it not only raises suspicion legitimately, but it certainly undermines the effectiveness of these programs. You can imagine people hearing this, reading these stories, they’re going to be very reluctant to participate if they get a call in the future from someone that’s trying to do contact tracing. They’re going to be skeptical of it.”
Kauffman pointed to the vaccine roll out as another way Governor Wolf dropped the ball.
“Once the vaccine task force was able to get into operation and they started to listen to the representatives that were on the front lines, were in the communities, the vaccine deployment began to turn around and it totally flipped here in Pennsylvania as far as the deployment of the vaccine,” Kauffman said. “We demonstrated what could have happened for the last year if he would have put together working groups of legislators to help work with him, even if he was in these states of emergencies.”
In terms of Insight Global, Kauffman said, “I think the next year we will probably start to learn what this company is. Hopefully there’s nothing nefarious there, but you’ve gotta wonder how this company could have gotten a no-bid contract and be so incompetent.”