HEADLINE: HEARING OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE
SUBJECT: ENHANCING SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER PRIVACY
CHAIRED BY: REPRESENTATIVE E. CLAY SHAW (R-FL)
WITNESSES PANEL I: J. HOWARD BEALES III, DIRECTOR, BUREAU OF CONSUMER PROTECTION, FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION;
PATRICK P. O'CARROLL, ACTING INSPECTOR GENERAL, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION;
BARBARA BOVBJERG, DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION, WORKFORCE, AND INCOME SECURITY; LAWRENCE E. MAXWELL, ASSISTANT CHIEF INSPECTOR, INVESTIGATIONS AND SECURITY;
PATRICIA FOSS, ELKTON, MARYLAND; MARK LADD, PUBLIC SECTOR CO-CHAIR, PRIVACY/ACCESS WORKGROUP, PROPERTY RECORDS INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION;
CHRIS JAY HOOFNAGLE, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER;
BRIAN P. MCGUINNESS, FIRST VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF INVESTIGATION AND SECURITY SERVICES; MIKE L. BUENGER, PRESIDENT, CONFERENCE OF STATE COURT ADMINISTRATORS; FRED H. CATE, PROFESSOR OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF INDIANA-BLOOMINGTON; EDMUND MIERZWINSKI, CONSUMER PROGRAM DIRECTOR, U.S. PUBLIC INTEREST RESEARCH GROUP
LOCATION: B-318 RAYBURN HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.
REP. E. CLAY SHAW (R-FL): Good morning. Welcome to all our guests. We're a little slow, we were up till midnight thinking out a tax bill last night. I appreciate, Ben, your and Sam being here. Today the subcommittee will hear testimony about the growing threat of identity theft, the need to prevent identity theft and terrorists from stealing innocent Americans' Social Security Numbers and my bipartisan and I-support bipartisan, Social Security Number Privacy and Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2003.
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REP. KENNY HULSHOF (R-MO): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me start, Mr. Maxwell, by echoing what Mr. Johnson said, the St. Louis postal inspectors office --
REP. SHAW: Thank you, Mr. Beales.
REP. HULSHOF: -- had the opportunity to brief me in the St. Louis office, this was right in the aftermath of the mailbox pipe bombs in the mid west, and so I really got a good glimpse of what it is that you all do, and I have to admit that the day was capped off by allowing me to participate in the computer simulated firearms training, which was a lot of fun, and I didn't maim too many innocent people.
Ms. Bovbjerg, let me get to really the subject of today's hearing, sorry about the microphone here, Mr. Chairman, it's in and out. We've talked about the private sector, Ms. Bovbjerg, what I'm going to talk about, because I know coming up in a later panel is what's happening in the public sector. And as you point out, and we're going to hear from a witness in the second panel, the Federal law requires the use or the collection of Social Security numbers, and for various reasons related to tracking deadbeat parents, Social Security numbers must appear on the pleadings and court orders related to child support, in fact the code of federal regulations requires that the Social Security number appear on garnishment orders involving postal employees as well as, not to resurrect Mr. Becerra, our discussion and debate last night in the full committee, but Social Security numbers are used to collect fines, crime victim restitution and beyond, so you know, I know you recognized in your statement, that there is a survey of state and local agencies to determine the extent to which Social Security numbers are displayed in public records. When might that survey be completed, and what can you tell us about it?
MS. BOVBJERG: Well, mine's not working either. We're due to report to Chairman Shaw in September on this work, and it's a really complex survey and so we have some things like we know that some states have the Social Security number and public records, but they don't need it and they're not really sure why it's there. We can't tell you what the incidence of that is yet because we don't have all of our surveys back. What we're looking at is really what kind of records does the SSN appear in, trying to be able to say how many people this might effect by the way that we structured our surveys, it's a little different from some things we've done for you in the past.
We're also looking at what format is it in, because two years ago when we did this work, we were all, I think, pretty alarmed when we heard that these things were all going to be electronic, and this was going to be a boon to customer service. We're looking at just how electronic is it going to be. I think that what we are hearing is anecdotally and the people that we talk with about these things. There's just a greater sensitivity to this issue, in those small things to the subcommittee's work.
We've seen a dramatic shift in the public record world in the kinds of things that people are concerned about now, a lot less concerned about the speed of customer service and a lot more concerned about how do we make sure that we have only the data we need, how do we make sure that it's not going to the wrong place, there's a lot more of that. So we'll be reporting those survey results and results of our interviews. I think you know, largely the early returns, is there's some good news, there are some things that are being done. The good news at the federal level, just by the way, is that the privacy act works. But when you get into state and local governments, it's not uniform, there isn't a single law that affects them, and we continue to believe that the government, the federal government should consider working with state and local governments to develop something that's more uniform.
More uniform protections, but at the same time, consider that there are some very important uses to which the governments put the SSN, one of them being child support enforcement, PACS enforcement, program integrity at SSA, just a few.
REP. HULSHOF: Well, certainly as a supporter of the chairman's bill, I wasn't aware until really preparing for this hearing that the federal regulations in some instances insist that the Social Security number be recorded, and so I see that we are at-I mean there's a conflict here obviously and the other concern that I would expect would be that any new legislation that would be introduced and hopefully passed, Mr. Chairman, your bill, would certainly be prospective, again I'll just relate that in the state of Missouri, our state court administrator who is set to testify, a lot of our courts in rural areas are finally now getting online as far as providing those court documents, and so in other words going back retroactively to somehow close these records, would just really be an extraordinarily difficult task, but look forward to the survey and any recommendations that may be coming along with that study, so thank you.
MS. BOVBJERG: Well, one thing I do want to encourage you to think about is there's use and there's protection, and that you can require use, but you don't have to display it while you're using it, and I think that's one of the things you're seeing that the federal courts are starting to try to deal with.
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REP. HULSHOF: As I referenced earlier and had a chance to chat with Mike, it's great to have him here. Not only is he our state court administrator, but he's the president of the national organization, and we're honored to have him here today, Mr. Chairman.