Thursday, March 17, 2005

Westlaw Agrees to Stop Selling Social Security Numbers, Schumer Urges Other Companies to Follow Suit

Thanks to Sabrina at beSpacific (beSpacific: Westlaw Announces Restricted Access to Personal Data) for pointing me to the following press release by Senator Schurmer, who is announcing that Westlaw has agreed to limit access to social security numbers in its databases:

Westlaw Agrees to Stop Selling Social Security Numbers, Schumer Urges Other Companies to Follow Suit:


Westlaw Ends SSN Sales to Private Companies, Greatly Limits Sale to Law Enforcement, Other Public Agencies

Senator Introducing Comprehensive Privacy Legislation Soon, Westlaw Supports Provisions in Schumer ID Theft Prevention Bill

After meeting with top executives last night, Sen. Charles Schumer (NY) announced today that Westlaw would be taking major steps to close large loopholes in its data search systems which previously allowed access to millions of Social Security numbers and other personal information. Peter Warwick, the head of Westlaw, thanked Sen. Schumer for raising important questions about privacy, and he has directed his company to take decisive action to close the privacy loopholes Schumer highlighted in letters and conversations. Westlaw undertook a complete review of its systems and made significant changes in its dealings with its clients.

Schumer said, “The steps that Westlaw has taken to close privacy loopholes and protect consumers from identity theft are a model for the rest of the data broker industry. This is a victory for consumers and big loss for criminals who want to steal your Social Security number and your identity. Identity theft costs consumers and businesses an estimated $5 billion per year and I’m happy that we’re making progress reduce that financial burden on American families.”

In their meeting on Wednesday night, Westlaw informed Sen. Schumer that:

  • 85% of those who had access to Social Security numbers on Westlaw’s database do not anymore.
  • No corporate clients have access to Social Security numbers anymore.
  • Eliminated government clients’ access for full Soc. Sec. numbers, including the U.S. Senate, and are working to restrict access to non-law enforcement personnel at other government agencies.
  • Will not sign new contracts that would allow full access to Soc. Sec. numbers.
  • Individuals who still have access will be screened by Westlaw, and are working towards individualized password access for those who have been screened.

Westlaw also expressed its support for Schumer’s efforts to enact legislation addressing ID theft, including the distribution and sale of Social Security numbers except to law enforcement; support regulation of data brokering."

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