Secretary of State announces privacy incident regarding historical health records; no evidence of misuse of data

California Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber, Ph.D., announced that confidential records pertaining to the state’s forced sterilization program were inadvertently released to a single researcher. When the researcher discovered the error, they immediately notified the Secretary of State’s Office that the records included documents that were less than 75 years old, the threshold required for access by the public.

“The Secretary of State’s office regrets the release of this information. Fortunately, the researcher involved confirmed they did not view the materials in detail and have deleted any material from their computer. There is no evidence that there has been any use or attempted use of the information compromised by this incident,” Weber said.

“These records, which are housed in the California State Archives, have since been removed from public access, and we have updated our practices and procedures to better ensure the security of these records moving forward.”

The records, dated from 1948-1952, contained personal information, including full names, dates of birth and addresses as well as medical information related to procedures performed, medical history and familial history.

The SOS has posted a Notice of Privacy Incident, sos.ca.gov/notice-privacy-incident-historical-health-records, so impacted individuals may be aware of the incident and can take the necessary steps to monitor any unusual activity regarding their personal information. For additional information or for those who believe they may be impacted, email archivesprivacy@sos.ca.gov. If you have additional questions, contact Archives Services Manager at (916) 653-7715, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time.

Pursuant to Government Code section 12237, all records 75 years and older within the California State Archives are made public.

California’s forced sterilization program in state-run hospitals, homes and institutions was conducted from 1909 to 1979. In 2021, the Legislature created The Forced or Involuntary Sterilization Compensation Program to compensate financially survivors of state-sponsored sterilization. For more information about the program, go to victims.ca.gov/fiscp/.