Companies that provided subsidized phone service to poor leaked private data to Internet

Economic IndicatorsAssociated Press

Federal regulators say that two phone carriers — TerraCom and YourTel America — unwittingly posted the Social Security numbers, driver's licenses and other sensitive data of up to 300,000 people to the Internet.

As consumer data breaches go, the case is relatively small. But the incident is alarming because of how it unfolded: The companies participate in a government program that subsidizes phone service for poor consumers. To crack down on fraudulent claims, federal regulators ordered carriers to collect identifiable information.

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The Federal Communications Commission says the jointly owned companies complied but were so careless with the information that a reporter stumbled upon it during a simple Google search.

A spokesman for the companies said they have increased security and are working with the FCC to resolve the matter.