Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Incident: Tax preparer puts obscured social security numbers on mailing envelopes

This one is relatively minor, but it's the first one of these of the year ...

H&R Block, the tax preparation company, has alerted some of its customers to keep an eye on their credit reports and bank accounts because some had their social security numbers embedded in a forty-seven digit tracking number on mailed copies of their software. The numbers were just munged in, so probably weren't recognizable as SSNs. If you want to read more, check out: H&R Block blunder exposes consumer data CNET News.com.

Calling this an "incident" that exposes personal information may be ammunition for those who argue companies should only have to notify customers when there is a real risk of identity theft associated with the disclosure.

Update: Techdirt asks what H&R Block is otherwise doing with SSNs if they are including them in tracking numbers? (Techdirt:H&R Block Mails Customers Their Own SSNs... On The Outside Of The Envelope) It certainly suggests they are using the numbers as customer identifiers, which raises a whole host of other issues.

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