Child abuse reports, Social Security numbers and other highly sensitive data were discovered on a batch of government computers headed for the auction block to be sold by the State of New Jersey, authorities said on Thursday.
Data was found on 79 percent of the computers that were already shrink-wrapped on pallets at the state's surplus property warehouse and bound to be sold to the highest bidder, said Peter McAleer, spokesman for the New Jersey Office of the State Comptroller.
The auction plans were put on hold while state workers remove the information, he said.
State workers preparing the equipment for sale had opted not to use a device designed to magnetically erase sensitive data from hard drives because it was noisy, the comptroller's office said in a news release.
The first thing we did was suspend the auctions and remove all the hard drives, McAleer told Reuters.
He said the Department of Treasury now has 90 days to develop a new policy to ensure that confidential information will not be put up for auction.
Among the delicate information found on the computers was a list of state-supervised children, along with their birth dates and Medicaid numbers, a state judge's file including his life insurance, tax returns and attorneys in disputes or with emotional problems and personnel reviews and computer passwords of state employees.
Now that the hard drives have been removed, many of the computers are now being sold without them, McAleer said.
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton)