Virginia Won't Stop Publishing People's Social Security Numbers; But Will Fine You For Republishing Them

from the backwards-thinking dept

Apparently, the state of Virginia has been publishing various government documents on its websites that reveal the social security numbers of various residents. Betty “BJ” Ostergren thought this was a problem — and when the state wouldn’t listen to her, she decided to try to get more attention by republishing those documents on her own website. Basically, in an effort to show why it’s wrong for Virginia to post people’s SSNs, she’s reposting them.

So how did the state of Virginia respond? Did it stop posting documents that exposed SSNs? Not at all. Instead, it passed a new law that let it continue to publish documents exposing SSNs, but would fine anyone like Ostergren who reposted that info on their own websites. In other words, instead of fixing the problem, it simply decided to fine the woman who helped highlight the problem. The ACLU and Ostergren are now suing the state to protest this new law. While I don’t necessarily agree with Ostergren for republishing the SSNs exposed by the state, it does seem pretty ridiculous for the state to go after her, rather than to stop exposing SSNs.

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Comments on “Virginia Won't Stop Publishing People's Social Security Numbers; But Will Fine You For Republishing Them”

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Anonymous of Course says:

Been there...

When I lived in Newport News Virginia everyone
wanted my SSN. The utilities wanted it before
they turned anything on, cable TV company
wanted it.

Even the Radio Shack Store wanted it for their
mailing list (wny I don’t know, when asked they
couldn’t provide a coherent explaination.) When
I refused to surrender my SSN they acted as if I
was the only person who had ever objected.

YOUR PAPERS, PLEASE! If you have done nothing
wrong, you have nothing to hide! Virginia is for
lovers… unless you love privacy or liberty.

will sue Virginia? (profile) says:

Wonder if the FEDs

I wonder what Virginia would do if you lived out of state or out of country? Hard to sue someone running a blog in outer Mongolia.

That smarmy comment aside, I wonder if Virginia may be running afoul of HIPAA? I did a ERP implementation project for the UT Health Science Center Texas and we had to secure any system that referenced SSN’s due to HIPPA regulatory requirements, regardless if the system contained health information.

There is also H.R. 2971, the Social Security Number Privacy and Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2004:

I’m not certain if that passed.

malfunct (user link) says:

The next test

So in order to no “repost” someone needs to add a frame to thier website that displays the state website untouched. I hate that technology confuses otherwise resonably intelligent people so much that they pass really dumb laws as a result.

That said if we quit using the SSN as an ID, which is something that people who fought against the laws early on were “promised” would not happen, then it wouldn’t matter if the numbers got posted near as much.

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