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State welfare agencies lax on privacy, survey says

State welfare agencies do a poor job of safeguarding the millions of personal files they receive from the Social Security Administration, the General Accounting Office says. A GAO survey of 80 state welfare offices in 14 states - which handle nearly half of the nation's welfare caseload - showed the personal files on individuals were so unprotected that janitors, landlords, and outsiders could read them, copy them, and walk out with them.

The personal files contain a claimant's address, employer, ownership of property, names of relatives, amount of welfare benefits, race, national origin, social security benefits, health care, and tax and veterans benefits.

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