Contact tracing data breach hearings begin

HARRISBURG — State lawmakers in Harrisburg today held the first of two hearings on the contact tracing data breach first reported by Target 11.

A high-ranking deputy from the Pennsylvania Department of Health was on the hot seat today, facing questions regarding the contact tracing data breach from several months ago.

We told you when Insight Global exposed the personal information of more than 72,000 people across the state

Today, the Health Department continued to place the blame on employees of the contractor hired to do contact tracing.

The hearing focused primarily on emergency procurement during the pandemic, but for several minutes, lawmakers turned their attention to that massive data breach, and the Health Department’s deputy secretary defended the contract with Insight Global.

She said there’s nothing in the contract with Insight Global that would have prevented that massive data breach.

“I do not believe that through the terms of the contract, there was anything different or it wasn’t caused because of any thing,” Keara Klinepete, DOH executive deputy secretary, said.

Under the state’s emergency procurement process, the Atlanta-based company received nearly $30 million to do contact tracing in Pennsylvania.

But the state terminated the contract after a Target 11 investigation revealed that personal and health information had been compromised. Former and current employees of Insight Global said the company failed to take steps to protect the data, and say they told both Insight Global and the DOH about the potential cyber security issues months before Target 11 discovered the unsecured data.

Insight Global blamed employees who failed to secure the information, and today, the Health Department’s deputy director echoed that sentiment.

“In this instance, there were individuals who worked for Insight Global that caused the security incident,” Klinepete said.

The DOH is now using that same emergency procurement process to pursue a $34 million agreement with another company to take over contact tracing duties. That will be the focus of a state Senate hearing on Wednesday.