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Audit: State Gave Away, Sold Computers Containing Sensitive Personal Data

Mikkel Ronne

State agencies have likely given away or sold hundreds of surplus computers without removing confidential data from their hard drives, according to the state auditor.

A performance audit released Thursday says a spot check of more than a thousand remaindered machines found about 9 percent of them still contained sensitive data, such as social security numbers and medical information.

The breaches came from the state departments of Health, Labor and Industries, Social and Health Services and Ecology.

The report says over the past two years, the state has disposed of about 200,000 computers. It also found at least 10 departments did not follow recommended practices of verifying that data on hard drives is erased before they’re remaindered.

State officials say they responded quickly to the audit by intercepting the computers and working with the departments in question to establish new guidelines.  

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.