WASHINGTON – The Social Security numbers of up to 150,000 people who received Agriculture Department grants have been posted on a government Web site since 1996, but were taken down last week.
Free credit monitoring is being offered to those affected.
But a study has begun to see if 32 other federal agencies may have followed the same practice. The Agriculture data that included Social Security numbers were removed from the Web on April 13 and similar data from 32 other agencies were taken down April 17 as a precaution, said Agriculture spokeswoman Terri Teuber.
"There is no evidence that this information has been misused," Teuber added. "However, due to the potential that this information was downloaded prior to being removed, USDA will provide the additional monitoring service."
When the breach was reported to Agriculture on April 13, there were Social Security numbers for 47,000 recipients of grants from the department's Farm Services Agency and from USDA Rural Development on a public Web site maintained by the Census Bureau.
The department said the Social Security numbers of 105,000 to 150,000 individuals had been entered into federal databases open to the public since 1981. But the data has only been posted on the Internet by the Census Bureau since 1996.
The Census Bureau collects the grants made by 33 federal agencies and posts them on the Internet without analysis. By lawregister. Any USDA funding recipient with questions may call 1-800-FED-INFO (1-800-333-4636) or visit http://USA.gov. The call center operates from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EDT, Monday-Friday.
Under supervision of the Office of Management and Budget, the grant numbers posted by the other 32 agencies were taken down and are being reviewed to see if any of them included Social Security numbers.
Teuber said an unknown number of private Web sites had downloaded and reposted the information, but she said at least one of them, OMB Watch, had also removed the identifying grant numbers.