Senator Collins Calls for Greater Protection of Federal Employee’s Private Information

Washington, DC – Senator Susan Collins has sent letters to the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Bank of America (BOA) Corporation asking what actions they will take protect the identities and privacy of federal employees. She raised concerns following the revelation that BOA lost five computer backup tapes containing personal information on an estimated 1.6 million federal employees. The employees affected each participates in the GSA’s SmartPay program, which is a program that allows federal agencies to use special charge cards to pay for commercial goods and services.

Senator Collins, who is the Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has worked to crack down on waste, misuse, and mismanagement within federal purchase card programs. She held a Committee hearing last year to examine these issues. Her staff has been briefed by GSA on the lost BOA tapes. GSA reported that the tapes have been missing – either lost or stolen – since December and contain personal information on federal employees from 30 agencies, as well as members of Congress and staff.

“This incident raises serious questions regarding the protection of federal employees’ sensitive personal information,” said Senator Collins. “I am concerned that this incident occurred in the first place. I am perplexed as to why federal employees were not notified that their identifying information had been compromised until two months after the fact. And I am disturbed that we still do not know whether the tapes were accidentally lost or deliberately stolen.”

Senator Collins wrote letters to Stephen Perry, GSA Administrator, and Kenneth Lewis, BOA Chairman and Chief Operating Officer. She asked them to provide answers to the following questions:

• Why did it take two months for affected employees to be notified of what happened?
• What steps have been taken to mitigate potential damage caused by this incident?
• What steps will be taken to help ensure that the personal information of federal employees is protected better in the future?

In addition, Senator Collins asked GSA whether BOA has responded to any action that GSA may have requested following the incident.