Secure government data from personal ID theft
A Hawaii task force has called for agencies to secure their records from identity theft.
Identity theft remains a major problem, made easier by the Internet, and a Hawaii task force urged state and county agencies last month to urgently secure their records and limit their collection of personal information. The government should heed a law Gov. Linda Lingle signed into law in 2006 to guard against ID theft.
The Federal Trade Commission estimated that 8.3 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2005, the most recent data compiled, but the Washington Post reported yesterday that personal information remains available in public records. Reporters found Colin Powell's Social Security number on a Fairfax County, Va., Web site and former Dallas Cowboy quarterback Troy Aikman's number on a Texas land records site.
The federal government has banned Social Security numbers on public documents since 2001. That was when Hawaii began to stop using those numbers on driver's licenses, completing their elimination on renewals in 2006.
However, the 23-member task force, which met over the past two years, found that 44 state and county agencies continue using Social Security numbers on such documents as contracts, death certificates, ambulance reports, prescriptions and Family Court documents. Four agencies require people to use their Social Security numbers to access their Internet sites.
Just more than half of the agencies have specific procedures for concealing or redacting personal information on paper documents, according to the task force, and less than half have technical safeguards for its transmission or storage by computer.
The 2006 state law requires businesses and the government to take reasonable measures when storing and disposing of personal information. Honolulu police had been receiving about 400 ID theft complaints a month, and the FTC suggests the victims could number twice that many.
The task force essentially recommended that government agencies take the same measures required by that law but which have been neglected.
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