US Agriculture Department Revealed Thousands Of Social Security Numbers On Its Website

from the nice-work dept

ekc writes "Apparently people don’t need to find lost government laptops in order to get people’s social security numbers. The agriculture department was nice enough to make them available in a searchable public database." Even better is the fact that the database’s records were available via Google. The only way this was discovered was because a bored farmer did a vanity Google search and was surprised to find her social security number displayed. The article quotes numerous people wondering (a) why the Agriculture Department was using SSNs for identification purposes and (b) how no one could have noticed that they were then putting that info into a public database. By this point, though, it seems pretty reasonable to just admit defeat: your social security number is not private. It’s available, and anyone who wants it can probably get it. What should be done, then, is for everyone to simply stop using it as a means of identification, but somehow, that seems unlikely to happen any time soon.

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Comments on “US Agriculture Department Revealed Thousands Of Social Security Numbers On Its Website”

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Allison says:

Google Yourself!

Once or twice a year, I do an extensive Google search using my Ebay seller ID, since the same user ID is the one I use for my email accounts. My actual name is as of yet nowhere to be found on Google, but my unusual Ebay ID ties me into several online sources.

As a straight hetero supporter of some important AIDS related charities and similar causes, my standard online user ID comes up and makes me look like a bra-burning lesbian radical. I’d better not ever run for political office.

It’s not a bad idea at all to occasionally do a search of your name, social security number and the main user ID that you go by on different websites.

Fred Flint says:

I hate to tell you this but...

#1. Allison:

“It’s not a bad idea at all to occasionally do a search of your name, social security number and the main user ID that you go by on different websites.”

Of course, if you do that, you’re giving all that information to Google to immediately record and retain forever, connected to your IP address and every search you ever made.

No big deal? Your IP address can easily be connected to your house, your real name, your telephone number, etc. Not only is it legal, governments encourage it.

People have been convicted of murder and significant evidence has been gleaned from simple searches – like the famous “how to get away with murder” search done by a man who murdered his wife.

You might want to be more careful….

Shelvin Datt (user link) says:


May be what government departments should do is, add a bit more security to their systems, example, alter the robot.txt on their websites, so that when google mines their site, it only gets social security numbers without the persons name, and when yahoo mines the site, you get the persons name, but not the social security number, and when dogpile mines it, it gives the address details of the person.

Then only savy people can do is, print it out and when they put all three print outs side by side, the information all corresponses to each other.

We can call this the comical information encryption standard (CIE) super duper Government publically available information encryption standards.

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