FOIA, social security and online privacy

One reason some folks object to some public records going on the internet is the fear of identity theft or other abuses if someone acting in bad faith discovers a social security number on those records.

In a comment left yesterday–that I’m pulling out here because it deserves a wider audience–California sunshine activist Kimo Crossman asks:

“I have to ask, what verified evidence is there that SSN which have been in public records for years are being used for ID theft? I thought ID Theft was happening more from the following:

1) Theft of or Knowledge of personal information from family or friend
2) Theft (often by meth addicts) of credit card offers or new checks from the bank delivered or payments with checks sent which have account info on them awaiting pickup from the mail carrier.
3) Social engineering on the phone or fooling people to fill out forms online or on paper with information that can be misused.
4) Mass theft online of databases, backup tapes

Lastly what is the tipping point in which damage is likely?

SSN and Name only or do you need DOB and Address, or even more like Place of Work or Birth location or Account numbers of current accounts?

Since SSN can be used to more uniquely identify people than name, would it be better to allow future research/analysis of related records if the name was redacted in records rather than SSN?

I know reporters often need DOB or SSN with a name to identify the unique person (address helps too but that changes often).

Is leaving SSN on records that have always had them on them now an unwarranted invasion of privacy at the same level as private medical information always has been?”


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