Wa social security death records public

These records contain important personal identifiable information, including the name, social security number, date of birth, date of death, state or country of residence, ZIP code of last residence, and ZIP code of lump sum payment to the decedent's beneficiary. These records are also accessible for free on the web at places like Ancestry. Unscrupulous users of this database for instance might be able to exploit the recently bereaved or take advantage of their changed financial circumstances.

Includes Obituaries, Cemeteries & the Social Security Death Index

Separate from what residual privacy concerns might be there for the recently departed, it is important to appreciate the effect such disclosure has on the survivor's privacy where their spouse's or parent's name, SSN and location is made freely available. The database might arguably be of some help for those engaged in historical research, but the terms and conditions of such use can be regulated to protect the privacy of survivors.

In the s, significant public concern was raised about information brokers that routinely buy and sell detailed personal information, including Social Security Numbers. Social Security numbers are collected from a variety of public and non-public sources. Public documents such as bankruptcy filings and other types of court records often contain Social Security numbers of the parties to a proceeding.

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In response to this, a number of states shield SSNs from disclosure in public records. For instance, marriage licenses have been a source for SSNs and a number of states, including Arizona, California, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Ohio, and Michigan, have enacted legislative protections to prevent their disclosure.

Birth and death records are rich in personal information, and states have acted to shield SSNs collected in these life events against disclosures. Similarly, several states restrict disclosure of the SSN in records associated with death. Non-public documents such as credit headers, the identifying information at the top of credit reports including names, addresses, ages and SSNs , are also culled for information. IRSG companies use both public and non-public sources of personal information to compile data on individuals.

These self-regulatory principles allow the sale of Social Security numbers without the knowledge and permission of the data subject. The IRSG Principles treat the same data, Social Security numbers, differently if it comes from a non-public source such as credit headers. However, the guidelines for the sale of Social Security numbers from non-public sources are completely subjective and largely ignore the privacy interests of the data subject.

The IRSG Principles create a three-tier system for the sale of information gathered from non-public sources. The first tier for the sale of Social Security numbers applies to "qualified subscribers. There is no definition of what makes someone whom wishes to purchase a social security number a "qualified subscriber. The data subject, the person whose Social Security number is being collected and sold, has no input into whether such use is in fact "appropriate. In addition, IRSG companies do not have a strong incentive to establish whether information being sold to a responsible entity that will use data in a strictly appropriate manner.

Students are especially vulnerable to identity theft for many reasons.


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Some of these reasons pertain to the type of lifestyle that many students maintain-they are, in effect, transients for four years. Students may not actually receive their mail regularly. Often, parents are the ones who maintain their permanent mailboxes, and in many cases, parents actually receive the credit bills. Students are not likely to request their credit reports, or even know that checking their credit records is a good idea.

Also, credit card companies target students heavily for new lines of credit, and in some cases, issue credit without the consent of the student. Students are at particular risk because use of the SSN is rampant at some institutions. In some cases, the SSN is used as a student identifier, and is actually printed on the face of the student identity card.

Many schools use the SSN as the login for computer systems. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported in August that: "Nearly half of colleges nationwide still use Social Security numbers as the primary means to track students in academic databases, according to a March survey by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. The survey also shows that 79 percent of colleges display students' Social Security number on official transcripts. Some professors continue to post grades with the SSN as an identifier. Aside from the identity theft risk of this practice, posting grades with the SSN endangers confidentiality.


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For instance, at a state school, one only need to look for SSNs with a different "area numbers" first three digits to identify possible out-of-state students. Additionally, group numbers middle two digits may indicate age, so even within a state, it may be possible to separate older students from younger ones. In Arizona, major universities can no longer use the SSN as the student identifier. In Colorado, as of July , public and private post secondary institutions were required to establish protections for the SSN and discontinue its use as the primary student identifier.

Kentucky law allows students to opt-out of use of the SSN as student identifier. Many states have enacted legislative protections for the Social Security Number.

Transactions That Require Certified Copies of the Death Certificate

They vary from comprehensive frameworks of protection for the SSN to highly-specific laws that shield the SSN from disclosure in specific contexts. A law taking effect in January in Arizona prohibits the disclosure of the SSN to the general public, the printing of the identifier on government and private-sector identification cards, and establishes technical protection requirements for online transmission of SSNs. The new law also prohibits printing the SSN on materials mailed to residents of Arizona. In California, Senate Bill was signed into law in October The bill gives individuals the ability to request that a "security alert" be placed on their credit record via a toll-free phone number.?

The bill also enables Californians to request a "security freeze" that prevents credit agencies from releasing personal information from an individual's credit report.? The bill places important restrictions on use of the SSN-public posting of a SSN and printing the SSN on an identity card or document used to obtain a product or service is prohibited.?

Businesses that use the SSN to identify customers, such as utility companies, will no longer be permitted to print the SSN on invoices or bills sent through the mail.

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California's Senate Bill went into effect on July 1, That legislation requires companies that maintain SSNs and other personal information to notify individuals when they experience a security breach. The bill came in response to an April incident in which the records of over , state employees were accessed by a computer cracker.

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The California legislation exceeds federal protections, as there is no national requirement for notice to individuals when personal information is accessed without authorization. The new law will limit the collection of the SSN and its incorporation in licenses, permits, passes, or certificates issued by the state. The law requires the establishment of policies for safe destruction of documents containing the SSN. Insurance companies operating in the state must remove the SSN from consumers' identification cards. Finally, the legislation creates new penalties for individuals who use others' personal information to injure or defraud another person.

In Georgia, businesses are now required to safely dispose of records that contain personal identifiers.

Researchers Wring Hands as U.S. Clamps Down on Death Record Access

Georgia Senate Bill requires that business records-including data stored on computer hard drives-must be shredded or in the case of electronic records, completely wiped clean where they contain SSNs, driver's license numbers, dates of birth, medical information, account balances, or credit limit information. In Ostergren v. Cuccinelli , No. Even though, by statute, clerks are required to redact SSNs, this provision did not go into effect due to lack of funding.

The plaintiff in this case, Betty Ostergren, is a privacy advocate who maintains a website calling for improved privacy rights and the removal of private information from public records. Ostergren obtained unredacted public documents through Virginia's secure remote access system and posted the documents on her website. Ostergren argued that posting the records informs the public about the online availability of personal information, and increases transparency and oversight.

The court agreed that the provision was unconstitutional as applied to her website. The court found that Ostergren's website addressed a matter of public concern, and that Virginia did not appear to regard the protection of SSNs as an "interest of the highest order" because it made some records available online and did not fund the redaction of the records. The court found that it was not an interest of the highest order even though the SSNs on Ostergren's website have been used at least twice for criminal activity.

One individual has admitted to using the SSNs to fraudulently obtain credit cards, and another confessed to using the SSNs to attempt to blackmail people. In Greidinger v. Davis , a Federal Appeals court was asked to consider whether the state of Virginia could compel a voter to disclose an SSN that would subsequently be published in the public voting rolls, the Court noted the growing concern about the use and misuse of the SSN, particularly with regard to financial services.

The Fourth Circuit said:. The Court concluded that to the extent the Virginia voting laws, "permit the public disclosure of Greidinger's SSN as a condition of his right to vote, it creates an intolerable burden on that right as protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. In a second case, Beacon Journal v. City of Akron , testing whether a state could be required to disclose the SSNs of state employees under a state open record law where there was a strong presumption in favor of disclosure, the Ohio Supreme Court held that there were privacy limitations in the federal Constitution that weighed against disclosure of the SSN.

The court concluded that:.


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While it is true that many companies and government agencies today use the Social Security Number indiscriminately as a form of identification, it is also clear from the Act, the provision, and these cases that there is plenty of legislative and judicial support for limitations on the collection and use of the SSN. The question is therefore squarely presented whether the Congress will at this point in time follow in this tradition, respond to growing public concern, and establish the safeguards that are necessary to ensure that the problems associated with the use of the SSN do not increase.

Share this page:. Defend Privacy. Donate Now. The new rule is intended to aid employers' efforts to protect employees from identity theft. The House report concluded that Equifax "failed to fully appreciate and mitigate" the cybersecurity risks and placed corporate growth over data security. The House Committee recommended that Equifax "provide more transparency to consumers" about data use and security practices and reduce the use of social security numbers as identifiers, longstanding priorities of EPIC. Following the Equifax data breach in , EPIC President Marc Rotenberg testified before the Senate Banking Committee and recommended free credit freezes and other consumer safeguards to mitigate the risk of identity theft.

Lester called on Congress to prohibit the use of the SSN in the private sector without explicit legal authorization. Lester also warned Congress against creating a national biometric identifier that would raise serious privacy and civil liberties risks.