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Legislation aimed to protect the privacy of Social Security numbers cleared Congress
December 13, 2010
Privacy Alert

Privacy measure to protect social security numbers clears House last week.

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On December 8, 2010, the House of Representative approved without amendment, the Social Security Number Protection Act, aimed at reducing identity theft through protecting the privacy of social security numbers. The bill previously passed the Senate by unanimous consent on September 28.  The bill was sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) It was sent to President Obama’s desk for signature on December 9.

The bill prohibits the display of social security numbers or any derivative thereof on any government-issued check, including checks issued by federal, state, or local agencies. Governmental agencies will have three years to comply with the new legislation.

The bill further prevents prisoners from gaining access to social security numbers through federal, state, or local government work programs. This provision follows the March 2010 discovery of the Social Security Administration’s Inspector General that facilities in eight states continued to employ prisoners in jobs that required them to access social security numbers. The Social Security Administration warned that employing prisoners in these types of jobs would increase the chances of identity theft of individuals. The government will have one year to comply with the measure.

Access to individuals’ names with accompanying social security numbers dramatically increases the risk of identity theft. Companies and governmental entities should limit or discontinue utilizing social security numbers if they are not absolutely necessary for conducting business to reduce the risk of a breach and resultant identity theft of individuals.

The foregoing has been prepared for the general information of clients and friends of the firm. It is not meant to provide legal advice with respect to any specific matter and should not be acted upon without professional counsel. If you have any questions or require any further information regarding these or other related matters, please contact your regular Nixon Peabody LLP representative. This material may be considered advertising under certain rules of professional conduct.