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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  • identicon
    eze, 17 Jun 2008 @ 11:31am

    my first comment

    finally a first comment by me

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TriZz, 17 Jun 2008 @ 11:47am

    Virginia

    I live in Virginia (like 10 miles outside of DC) and this is sucky news. I usually am quite proud of my little state here...but this is bad.

    PS: Eze is a douchebag.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Pennsylvanian, 17 Jun 2008 @ 12:09pm

      Re: Virginia

      First TriZz I can't see how you could possibly perceive your state as little and being that you live 10 miles outside of DC I can't imagine what you'd possibly be 'quite proud of'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous of Course, 17 Jun 2008 @ 11:59am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      R. H., 17 Jun 2008 @ 2:22pm

      Re: Been there...

      RadioShack asked for your SSN? I've had them ask for my Zip Code for a survey of how far people drove to get there but that's in Michigan. I never give my SSN out unless I'm applying for credit or filling out a government form.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Overcast, 17 Jun 2008 @ 12:05pm

    Do as I say, not as I do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    will sue Virginia?, 17 Jun 2008 @ 12:16pm

    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: http://www.ssa.gov/legislation/legis_bulletin_080504.html

    I'm not certain if that passed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2008 @ 12:16pm

    Isn't publishing people's SSN's illegal? Seems there would be some sort of identity fraud liability there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mr. Nosuch, 17 Jun 2008 @ 12:35pm

    A new state motto is in order!

    May I propose "Viginia is for Identity Thieves" as the new state motto?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jason (profile), 17 Jun 2008 @ 12:49pm

    Stupid

    I'd love to see the State of Virginia try and cite me if I ever decided to re-publish their publicly available information on a web server here in California.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2008 @ 1:07pm

    There is some irony in the obligatory pedantic correction, "Virginia isn't a state, it is a commonwealth."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jason, 17 Jun 2008 @ 1:48pm

    maybe for them...but not for me

    As it applies to Virginians, they can be a commonwelt all they want. As it applies to a guy in CA, they're just another state.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Hoeppner, 17 Jun 2008 @ 2:23pm

    Ex post factos... I find it hard to believe that the state fined her.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2008 @ 2:56pm

    do as big brother says, not as big brother does

    come on this america? very basic prinicple

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    who cares, 17 Jun 2008 @ 3:14pm

    Ridiculous! People, wake up!

    I think those who passed that law should get their SSN publushed. I am sure they won't mind that at all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2008 @ 4:37pm

    I'm not surprised. I moved to Virginia about 5 years ago from NC, and this state has some of the DUMBEST, LAZIEST people I have ever seen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    malfunct, 18 Jun 2008 @ 2:47pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Carolinian, 20 Jun 2008 @ 9:47pm

    I've lived in NC and VA all my life. If you want a flavor of government in both states, the instance you point out is pretty much a bellwether. Stupidity in spades.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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