Federal agencies have done a commendable job of eliminating the use of Social Security numbers wherever possible, according to a new report by the President’s Identity Theft Task Force. The Social Security Administration no longer uses the nine-digit code — the holy grail for identity thieves — on personnel forms for its own employees. The Defense Department is removing Social Security numbers from military ID cards. And the IRS only lists the last four digits on all federal tax lien documents.
But the nation’s counties have been slower to react. An astonishing 85 percent of the largest counties make records with full or partial SSNs available in bulk or online, according to a Government Accountability Office report issued the same day as the task force report. Smaller counties fare better, posting SSNs in just 41 percent of their public records.
Local governments are able to post this information at will because there’s no federal law restricting state or local governments from displaying Social Security numbers on public records and posting these records online. A bill by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., would do just that. Feinstein used the release of the task force’s report to press for passage of her own bill, which has been languishing in committee for nearly two years.