The Bibb County Sheriffs Office is investigating how hard drives containing names and Social Security numbers of Macon police officers, as well as personal data from other local businesses, were sold through an online auction site.
The investigation is still in its early stages and likely will take some time because specially trained investigators must examine 39 hard drives, two computer servers and two central processing units, sheriffs Capt. Mike Smallwood said Tuesday. The equipment has been turned over to the sheriffs office.
Its going to take a little while, he said. People think their hard drives are cleared, but thats not always the case.
Smallwood said it is unclear if the hard drives -- the storage medium in desktop and laptop computers -- were surplus from Macons police department or finance department.
Robin Aaron, an office assistant in Macons finance department, was listed as the seller, according to a sales receipt included in the report. However, Aaron said the finance department hasnt sold any computers. While she deals with GovDeals.com, she said shes merely a general contact and that each city department handles the selling of its own equipment.
Police spokeswoman Jami Gaudet said that when the police department gets rid of a computer, its turned over to the citys Information Technology Department, which is supposed to clean the hard drive. She said the city, not the police department, then sells the computer.
Smallwood said he doesnt think the general public had access to the sensitive information, since the person who purchased the equipment turned it over to the sheriffs office once he discovered the data. He said its not clear how many names or what private information was on the drives.
According to a sheriffs report, William Foster, who operates a computer repair business with Bob Coons, purchased computer components through the website GovDeals.com in July 2011. Foster told investigators the equipment sat in his garage for a long time before he inspected them.
Coons, who lives in McDonough and didnt make the actual purchase, said the two have been business partners several years, and Coons has been building computers and reselling them for the past 20 years.
Computers they purchase through the website generally dont include hard drives, Coons said. In Georgia, the law usually requires that holes be drilled in a hard drive to render it inoperable.
Normally, the computers dont include a hard drive, or if they do, (the sellers) trash it or wipe it, he said. Apparently, they didnt in this case.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.