Wednesday, February 01, 2006

It's the Globe's fault, so why do I have to watch an ad?

The Boston Globe and Worcester T&G sent out the credit card and bank information of 240,000 customers with the bundles of papers delivered Sunday. It's a stunning error, and one that deserves a great amount of scrutiny. I'm amazed that the Herald's largely held fire, even though the Globe deserves a smack for this.*

I went over to the publisher's letter on the Web to see his explanation. I wanted to read the Globe's explanation about why the confidential information of a quarter million people was betrayed.

Instead, I had to watch a splash ad and click on "go directly to" to read the damn letter. That's good planning, guys.

Next up, I went to the actual Globe article online. I read and read and read for an explanation, and instead got boilerplate about how this happened to a bunch of other companies, too. Then, finally, the last four grafs explained what happened to allow this:

Officials of the newspapers said they are recovering as many of the toppers as possible, although most have probably been discarded. The T&G has ended the practice of using any recycled paper for toppers. The Globe does not recycle paper in this fashion.

The newspapers have also added a safeguard to the computer system so only the last four numbers of credit and debit cards can be printed.

The Globe and T&G share a computer system. Larkin said the data was printed out on two occasions over the past few weeks by T&G business office employees. In one instance, an employee inadvertently hit the print button, aborted the job before the run was complete, and discarded the paper. In the other instance, another employee began printing a report, but soon realized it was the wrong one, aborted that print job, and discarded the paper.

Larkin said the newspapers are still investigating the T&G's procedures for handling confidential customer information. But he said the employees weren't disciplined because the errors were inadvertent. ''There's no reason to believe this was intentional," he said.

How exacty was this paper discarded if it ended up in a pile to print out bundle toppers? Clearly, they just threw it in a recycling bin. If the employee inadvertantly printed out sensitive financial information of customers, why wasn't a manager notified, or special precautions taken to destroy the information?

The Globe and T&G can't let this die today. Neither paper would allow such a flimsy answer pass as the final word if this happened to another company.

*I used to work for Communicty Newspaper Company, which is owned by Herald Media.

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