Missing BP laptop had personal data of spill claimants

By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN and HARRY R. WEBER
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — A BP employee lost a laptop containing personal data belonging to thousands of residents who filed claims for compensation after the Gulf oil spill, a company spokesman said Tuesday.

BP spokesman Curtis Thomas said the oil giant on Monday mailed out letters to roughly 13,000 people whose data was stored on the computer, notifying them about the potential data security breach and offering to pay for their credit to be monitored. The company also reported the missing laptop to law enforcement, he said.

The laptop was password-protected, but the information was not encrypted, Thomas said.

The data included a spreadsheet of claimants’ names, Social Security numbers, phone numbers and addresses. But Thomas said the company doesn’t have any evidence that claimants’ personal information has been misused.

“We’re committed to the people of the Gulf Coast states affected by the Deepwater Horizon accident and spill, and we deeply regret that this occurred,” he said.

The data belonged to individuals who filed claims with BP before the Gulf Coast Claims Facility took over the processing of claims in August. BP paid roughly $400 million in claims before the switch.

As of Tuesday, the GCCF had paid roughly $3.6 billion to 172,539 claimants.

The employee lost the laptop on March 1 during “routine business travel,” said Thomas, who declined to elaborate on the circumstances.

“If it was stolen, we think it was a crime of opportunity, but it was initially lost,” Thomas said.

BP is offering to pay for claimants to have their credit monitored by Equifax, an Atlanta-based credit bureau.

Asked why nearly a month elapsed before BP notified residents about the missing laptop, Thomas said, “We were doing our due diligence and investigating.”

Matt O’Brien, part owner of Tiger Pass Seafood, a shrimp dock in Venice, La., said he had filed a claim with BP before the GCCF took over processing claims in August. A call from an AP reporter on Tuesday was the first he had heard that his personal information may have been among the data compromised.

“That’s like it’s par for the course for them,” O’Brien said of BP. “They can’t seem to do nothing right.”
Beau Weber, a fishing guide in Lafitte, La., also had filed a claim with BP prior to Aug. 23, and he had even received several monthly payments from BP. He said he hadn’t received a letter from BP about the missing laptop.

“It’s terrible,” he said of the breach. “I kinda work hard for the things I have. I wouldn’t want somebody with a computer to be able to take it from me. It’s very disturbing. It’s like another gallon of gas thrown on the fire.”
 

7 Comments

  1. Raining_Witch

    That’s just over $20,000 on average to the 172,539 claimants. That’s not much. I am guessing that the shrimpers cannot specifically figure out much income they lost.

    #1
  2. usausausa

    Find a better picture, they don’t use lenovos.

    #2
  3. Hotpuppy

    Nothing like adding injury to insult after injury. It’s unthinkable that they would wander around with that data on a laptop given the resources that BP has. It would be much easier to keep the data on a secure server in one of their *many* secure facilities.

    #3
  4. No Name

    This is stupid! Even I encrypt my entire hard drive using free software so that if my laptop gets lost or stolen no one will be able to access the information on the hard drive! What a bunch of losers!

    #4
  5. Bill

    “This is stupid! Even I encrypt my entire hard drive using free software so that if my laptop gets lost or stolen no one will be able to access the information on the hard drive! What a bunch of losers!” ==============
    You just don’t want us to see your porn do you?

    #5
  6. Indianpaintbrush

    Who says that the data wasn’t encrypted? Even if it was, I would think that BP still has a responsibility to notify those whose info may have been compromised.

    #6
  7. mcfiesty

    Not encrypted? Like every company encrypt’s the hard drives of their laptops. Mine does!

    #7