"Embarrassing" Files Found Outside Blockbuster

Privacy experts found discarded forms with sensitive information

By Bob Hansen
|  Wednesday, Apr 20, 2011  |  Updated 2:38 PM PDT
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"Embarrassing" Files Found Outside Blockbuster

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"Embarrassing" Files Found Outside Blockbuster

Privacy experts found discarded forms with sensitive information.
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The Blockbuster store in Mission Valley was being cleaned out for the last time.  The video store chain is in bankruptcy and one worker was finishing up at the store.  That's when privacy rights expert Beth Givens happened to walk by and she was shocked by what she found.

"A box called case files and then an open bin that contained some papers," said Beth Givens with Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.  Those papers were employee files, job applications complete with names, addresses and social security numbers.

"We actually went into the store and talked to him," said Givens, "he said these are all for the trash and he said they should have been shredded."

Along with the job applications, Beth also found files on people that were fired from Blockbuster complete with surveillance descriptions and confessions from employees.

"This is really sensitive, I mean embarrassing stuff of people who've stolen from the cash register, who cheated on coupons and who gave free videos to their friends," said Givens.

Blockbuster said in an email statement that, "This appears to be an isolated incident."  They went on to say, "It's unfortunate during the store closing process that the box was placed in an area where the files could be accessed.  Blockbuster respects the process of its employees and will investigate the apparent breach of corporate policies and procedures to ensure that this does not happen again."

San Diego State management professor Wendy Patrick says with more stores going out of business, security procedures could be at risk.  "The privacy rights of customers and the sanctity of their personal information is nothing that should drop at all on the priority list."

Beth Givens will work with Blockbuster to return the paperwork but she has a warning for any company that's throwing out personnel records.

"Any information of a sensitive nature should be shredded and properly disposed of because when you're closing down, that's when bad things can happen," said Givens.

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