Wednesday, November 10, 2004

GAO Report on Privacy of Social Security Numbers

The Virtual Chase is linking to (and summarising) a recent US report on the use and availability of Social Security Numbers:

GAO: SSNs Need More Privacy:

"(9 Nov) A GAO report released this week says too many public records, especially from state and local government agencies, reveal Social Security numbers. 'State agencies in 41 states and the District of Columbia reported visible SSNs in at least one type of record and a few states have them in as many as 10 or more different records.... In general, federal agency display of SSNs in public records is prohibited under the Privacy Act of 1974. While the act does not apply to the federal courts, they have taken action in recent years to prevent public access.... Overall, GAO found that the risk of exposure for SSNs in public records at the state and local levels is highly variable and difficult for any one individual to anticipate or prevent.' While the GAO did not examine the use of SSNs on cards issued for identity or health benefits purposes, it noted that '42 million Medicare cards, 8 million Department of Defense identification cards, as well as some insurance cards, and 7 million Veterans Affairs identification cards ... display the full nine-digit SSN.'"

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