List of 6,500 AIDS and HIV Patients Accidentally Emailed Out

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Even the most upstanding of Florida’s email citizens can’t seem to avoid running afoul of good email practices, if not the law, it seems. It must be something in the tasty Florida water, which of course is not just for breakfast any more.

Case in point when Jack Nolan, a statistician for Florida’s Palm Beach County Health Department, emailed his monthly statistical report to his list of 800 or so recipients last week.


Nothing amiss about that – Nolan sends that report out, to that list, every month.

But last week he accidentally also attached to the email a file containing the names and addresses of 4,500 AIDS patients, and 2,000 HIV+ patients.

Oops.

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Nolan almost instantly realized what had happened, and immediately contacted the health department’s IT department, but of course by then that particular horse was out of that rather unfortunate barn door.

Now the county health department’s director has launched an investigation, and the state health department’s inspector general has been asked to conduct a separate, independent investigation.

All because of a slip ‘twixt edit and click.

 

Perhaps what we need in the workplace where sensitive information is handled on computers which also have email systems is a function in the email client which, when you have attached a file and pressed “send” asks you “are you sure you want to include this attachment?”

Pegasus Mail, which Aunty adores, has a function which works in reverse – if it detects the word “attached” in your outbound email, and there is no attachment attached, when you press “send” it will ask you whether you had meant to include an attachment. That’s certainly saved Aunty some embarrasement a time or two.

But nothing, of course, compared to that which Mr. Nolan and the Palm Beach County Health Department must be feeling right now.

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