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Angry Staten Island Sandy Victims Say FEMA Shared Their Personal Info

By Nicholas Rizzi | July 30, 2013 8:03am
 Hurricane Sandy victims are fuming at FEMA after they found out shared their contact information with a local non-profit without telling them.
Hurricane Sandy victims are fuming at FEMA after they found out shared their contact information with a local non-profit without telling them.
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DNAinfo/Catherine Nance

NEW DORP BEACH — Hurricane Sandy victims in Staten Island are angry at FEMA after residents found out the government agency share their personal information with a local non-profit.

Residents said they’ve begun getting calls from a non-profit who told them they got their contact information from FEMA, even though they weren’t told it would be shared when they signed up for help, said Scott McGrath, who helped start Beacon of Hope New York.

“If FEMA was going to do something like this then they should tell you,” McGrath said. “That should be personal information. It's different when you're talking to the government."

McGrath said his phone has been flooded with angry calls, emails and text messages from residents who didn’t want their information shared with the Staten Island Long Term Recovery Organization.

FEMA told some residents that only their contact information would be given out to the LTRO, but many are uncomfortable with just that being passed out without their knowledge.

“I would have been angry with FEMA no matter what group, agency or organization they were passing on the information to,” Debi White Vandola, vice president of the Midland Beach Civic Association, wrote in an email to residents.

“I am not comfortable with the knowledge that my information, even if only my ‘contact information’ is being handed over to anyone.”

FEMA said that they do share some information with trusted organizations after a disaster to continue recovery efforts, but did not specify what they shared.

"FEMA shares limited, relevant recovery data related to a federally declared disasters with trusted partners such as state emergency management agencies and voluntary organizations active in disasters," a spokesman for FEMA said.

"This helps to expedite the recovery period and provide additional non-federal assistance options to disaster survivors. It also enhances the ability of the emergency management community to make well-informed, rapid decisions based on sound data, and avoid duplicating efforts."

FEMA said that the information is protected by the Privacy Act law, which allows the limited sharing with partners.

Vandola and many residents McGrath spoke to said they’d rather reach out to an organization themselves rather than have FEMA share their information for them.

“If I want to request help from and give my information to any other group or organization, I would prefer the choice to be mine,” Vandola wrote.

A major concern residents have, McGrath said, is that they’re not sure exactly what information was shared with the Long Term Recovery.

Still, McGrath said a name and phone number is enough to find out a lot about the person.

“Once you have somebody’s telephone number or address, I can go on the web and find out everything about you,” McGrath said.