GAO Explores Data Security Concerns in Fed Telecom Service Subcontracting

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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) looked into concerns in a recent report about data and technology security in connection with Federal agency telecommunications and call centers contracts where work is performed by subcontractors, and in overseas locations.

The watchdog agency issued no recommendations as a result of the report, but did canvas several big contracts and found language in place to provide some level of data and tech security.

“The Federal government relies on an extensive global telecommunications network to carry out operations and provide information to the public,” the report said. “Concerns have been raised about the extent to which Federal contractors are subcontracting or offshoring work, and have in place worker protections and mechanisms to secure the technologies and the data they handle.”

“With regard to data security and privacy protections, the five selected contracts GAO reviewed included requirements to limit access to data systems and data maintained, establish security management procedures for and monitoring of data systems, or establish contingency plans for how to provide continued or restored services when system interruptions or problems occur,” the report said.

GAO reviewed Federal telecommunications and call center contracts, worker protections identified in contracts, and data security and privacy protections in contracts.  It said the Federal government obligated more than $30 billion for telecommunications contracts and $4 billion for call center contracts from fiscal years 2014 to 2018.

GAO found that Defense agency obligations were primarily responsible for Federal telecommunications spending, while the Department of Health and Human Services accounted for the majority of call centers which support customers with questions about Medicare and health insurance.

Jordan Smith
About Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.

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