Thursday, June 23, 2005

U.S. Social Security Administration gives FBI access to data post 9/11

The Social Security Administration in the United States has relaxed its privacy restrictions and turned over information on thousands of people to the FBI as part of terrorism investigations since the Sept. 11 attacks, newly disclosed records and interviews show (see reports on the New York Times and International Herald Tribune websites).

As documents obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) under a freedom-of-information request show (pdf accessible here), Social Security officials authorized a policy allowing the FBI to gain access in some cases to the documents, including earnings and employer information. Normally, Social Security's privacy rules prohibit the agency from disclosing information to law enforcement officials unless the crime involves Social Security or similar government benefit program, or the individual had been indicted or convicted of a violent crime.

Apparently the rules were changed through the exercise of “ad hoc” authority by the agency's commissioner.

As EPIC put it on their website: “The new policy undermines the Privacy Act and permits disclosure of personal information held by a federal agency with little accountability.”

1 Comments:

At 12/8/05 14:15, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Social Security Administration does not exactly have a great record of protecting people's privacy. As an illustration of this.... I've exposed a bug in their computer systems which causes social security cards to be mailed to incorrect addresses. They've acknowledged that this is happening but refuse to acknowledge that it needs to be fixed. See http://www.mit.edu/~jik/ssa-zip.html for the whole story.

 

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