Nightly News   |  October 30, 2013

Security concerns over healthcare website

HHS officials are taking steps to tighten security to protect personal data. NBC’s Michael Isikoff reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> reporter: this is michael isikoff . some of the toughest questions today were about security on health care .gov.

>> don't you think you have the obligation to tell the american people we are putting you in the system but, beware, information is likely to be vulnerable? would you commit today to shut down the system and do an end to end security test?

>> no, sir. if you read the memo --

>> i have read it.

>> reporter: that internal government memo three days before the october 1 launch date warned that testing of the site wasn't finished. exposing a level of uncertainty that can be deemed as a high risk . sebelius said h hs officials were taking steps to heighten security.

>> it's underway now. day thely and weekly monitoring and testing is under way.

>> i was alarmed.

>> reporter: privacy pregss were the subject of heated internal debate within the administration before the site launched according to michael astrew. he was chief of the social security administration under presidents bush and obama until last february and tells nbc news he protested that officials were carving out exemptions from the privacy act , a law that requires personal information be kept confidential.

>> i was extremely upset. there would be real world consequences for americans. i did not discuss this specifically with secretary sebelius.

>> reporter: her top aides.

>> absolutely.

>> reporter: their reaction was --

>> it was a shrug. we're going to hit october 1 . that was the mantra.

>> reporter: the exemptions which appear on the privacy policy of health care .gov include social security numbers to be shared with employers, family members and the department of homeland security . officials say sharing data is essential to determine if people qualify for subsidies. privacy advocates are concerned so much personal information is shared among so many.

>> the there is a hidden army of government and industry and corporations that are going to also be accessing and using our data. and that is scary. we don't know who they are. we need to, at a minimum, be able to have realtime lists of who is looking at our information.

>> reporter: we asked hhs for comment tonight. they told us consumers can trust the information they are providing is protected by stringent security standards.

>> our national correspondent michael isikoff . kelly o'donnell before that. mike, thanks.