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Address management concerns plague local social services

Paul Newman Archive

State and local governments rely on deep databases of people's contact information in order to provide valuable social services. Whether it's welfare, Social Security, Medicaid or any one of countless other resources, people have many needs that require government intervention. In order to deliver help, public offices need accurate information on their citizens.

Unfortunately, errors in address management crop up far too often, impeding social services in their ability to aid people in need. One such example recently arose in Washington state, according to The Suburban Times. The newspaper reported that the state Department of Social and Health Services' Economic Services Administration made a massive data quality error, and as a result, between 2,600 and 7,000 individuals have had their personal information compromised.

The department confirmed that because of a coding mistake, its offices had the wrong contact information on file for thousands of households. Because they had previous, not current, addresses in their records, ESA emails were sent to the wrong places for all of the affected families.

David Stillman, assistant secretary for the ESA, told the newspaper that he won't stand for such errors in his office.

"Even a single mistake that could wrongly disclose personal information is one too many," Stillman said. "We will respond to this by improving our production oversight processes."

Given the massive scope of the ESA, it's vital that the organization maintain high standards of data quality. With 1.5 million clients served and approximately 9.2 million pieces of mail sent each year, the ESA can't afford to make large-scale mistakes.

Address management will always be a concern, both for public offices and private companies, both for-profit and nonprofit. People are always going to change addresses, so there will always be a need for data quality solutions to verify that people's contact information is accurate and up to date.