Security of confidential docs called into question after Williamsburg storage facility fire

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WILLIAMSBURG, Brooklyn (PIX11) — With hundreds of thousands of documents to fuel the flames, crews continued to douse the building with water Monday.

Fire officials say It could take a week before firefighters fully extinguish the massive 7-alarm blaze that lit up Citistorage in Williamsburg Saturday.

“Once that paper starts burning, it’s very difficult it borrows in,” said FDNY Chief James Leonard.

As firefighters work to put out the smoldering blaze, they also try to answer questions about how it started. And now there are security concerns for the people who’s information was housed inside.

“This is an old fashioned data breach, it’s paper, it’s not online, but it’s serious,” said Brooklyn College Professor and Lawyer David Bloomfield.

With hundreds, maybe thousands of confidential documents landing on the sidewalks and floating in the East River, Bloomfield says you can’t be sure who will stumble upon vital information like social security numbers.

Since organizations like New York Courts, Health and Hospitals Corporation, and the Administration for Children’s services kept records inside, it’s likely some very personal and private information is now out in the public.

“Criminal records are going to be out there. Insurance records are going to be out there. And some child welfare records are going to be out there,” said Bloomfield.

In a statement ACS said the organization has been moving files out of Citistorage to another facility for years, but they still aren’t sure what files remained inside.

“We are currently working to assess the number and type of files that may have been impact by this massive fire,” said a spokesperson.

While the Health and Hospitals Corporation did store older archives at the facility, which may contain personal information, the organization says it has a back up of all records.

“Fortunately, as an early adopter of electronic medical record systems, HHC keeps vital patient records in electronic form and we don not anticipate this will affect our patient care operations,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

We were unable to contact the New York Courts, so it is still unclear what court records were housed at the facility.

If you think your information may have been stored at the warehouse, Bloomfield suggests calling 3-1-1 to contact the agencies involved and says to keep an eye on your credit report to make sure there’s no unusual activity.

In the future, he says he believes the city will look to more secure facilities, especially ones that use fire and water proof boxes, to house vital documents.

“Are you surprised that wasn’t the case here?”

“I’m very surprised,” said Bloomfield.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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