Monroeville warns residents of privacy violations

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The attorney leading an investigation into allegations Monroeville's 911 dispatch center violated federal privacy laws is giving residents a "heads up" to check their personal information to ensure it's secure.

The notice says anyone who has contacted Monroeville's dispatch center or police, fire or EMS departments in 2012 or 2013 should "take all necessary steps to make sure that all your personal information is safe and secure."

"There is a possibility that your personal health records and other personal information (including name, date of birth, driver's license number, etc.) may have been compromised and accessed by persons not authorized to receive that information on behalf of the Municipality of Monroeville," according to the notice from William P. Bresnahan II of Dickie McCamey & Chilcote, who was hired by the municipality this month to handle the investigation.

"It's mostly just a heads up to them, to just monitor this," Mr. Bresnahan said on Tuesday.

An August 2012 complaint to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights alleged the municipality's emergency management service provided health information protected under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, to a former police chief via email. That complaint also said generic user names and passwords were created to access a database of 911 callers' medical information, giving anyone with that information the ability to anonymously access personal medical records.

Mr. Bresnahan said the notice to residents is required by HHS.

The probe is being conducted by Russ Davis, an investigator with Precise Inc., on behalf of the municipality. Mr. Bresnahan said the investigation is moving swiftly but added that he didn't have any specifics on who had access to the system or the dates the system had been breached. He said he hoped to have that information sometime next week.

"An investigation is currently being conducted to determine the full extent to which this information may have been obtained by unauthorized third parties," the notice concluded. "Further notification will follow."

Monroeville manager Lynette McKinney said the situation is being taken seriously.

"We are following all the requirements of the law to notify the public," she said.

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Annie Siebert: asiebert@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.


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