Environmental

BP lost laptop containing personal info of 13,000 oil-spill claimants

Talk about adding insult to injury. First BP spilled a record amount of oil in the Gulf of Mexico and now it looks as though the oil giant may have spilled the private information of thousands of people harmed by the disaster. According to a number of news sources around the globe, BP has lost a laptop containing sensitive information of about 13,000 individuals who filed claims for oil-spill related damages.

BP acknowledged the missing computer and verified that a database on it contained the names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, social security numbers, and financial information of the claimants. The oil giant has issued a statement, apparently to forestall a public panic along the Gulf Coast.

“There is no evidence that the laptop or data was targeted or that anyone’s personal data has in fact been compromised or accessed in any way,” BP spokesman Tom Mueller said in a written statement. “We have sent written notice to individuals impacted by this event to inform them about the loss of their personal data and to offer them free credit monitoring services to help protect their personal information.”

The sensitive data is contained in a password-protected spreadsheet, BP officials said. The company also claimed the missing laptop is equipped with a security feature that allows it to be disabled remotely “under certain circumstances.” However, the company would not elaborate on what those circumstances would be or whether it had, in fact, managed to disabled the laptop.

BP says that the laptop was lost by an employee during a business trip on March 1. The incident has been reported to law enforcement and BP security, but the company won’t provide details about who lost it or where it was lost, claiming that information could compromise an ongoing investigation.

A BP spokesman also said that BP waited nearly a month to notify the people whose personal data was contained on the lost computer because it was doing “due diligence and investigating.”