Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Texas House and Senate Vote to Make My Social Security Number Public Record

Now if it weren’t for the fact that the Social Security Administration’s 9-digit number gets permanently attached to every American, and that it’s used not only for the SSA’s records but is essentially a personal identification number that is used in all sorts of record-keeping, including banking, and if it weren’t for the fact that identity theft is the newest form of grand theft being conducted on the internet, well, I wouldn’t be concerned at all about the Texas legislature’s latest blunder.

The legislature is supposed to serve the people, not serve them up.

I wrote about this before, and about HB 2061, Jim Keffer’s way of fixing the problems pointed out by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. So I am not going to repeat myself.

I want to point out something else.

We have the technology to remove easily these sensitive bits of information from public records. One bit of technology is a system being sold by Hart Intercivic – you know – the one that sold 94 Texas counties their voting machines? It’s called “Anthem”. It does a lot, and one thing that it can do is redact social security numbers from any public record – and it’s automated. I’ll bet there are other systems out there, but I heard about Hart Intercivic’s system from FortBendNow.

You see, it seems that in the wake of Greg Abbott’s opinion, Dianne Wilson, the County Clerk of Fort Bend County shut down public access to internet records that include individual social security numbers. When Abbott suspended himself, the county went back online, but Wilson, secured a bid from Hart Intercivic to buy and install “Anthem”. She took a $48,000 request to the commissioners’ court and was just about to get the nod to buy the equipment when news came down from Austin that Keffer’s bill had passed in the House. So rather than do the right thing and authorize the purchase of a system that will keep the personal records of every resident of Fort Bend County secure, Fort Bend County Judge Bob Hebert took the item off the agenda. He wanted to wait a week.

Heck, why spend $48,000 if you don’t have to? Better to spend $56,000 on the inflated rent of a county judge’s house while it is used as temporary office space to staff members of the Gus George Law Enforcement Academy.

Incidently, an amendment to Keffer’s original bill makes it possible for individuals to contact county offices and request that their social security numbers be redacted, all but the last 4 digits that is. I suppose this was added to make the bill palatable to those who were anticipating public outcry over this. What I don’t like about it is that while it is a compromise, it puts it all on the individual. Why not just get the automated redaction system in place?

Heck, you know, just maybe Hart Intercivic will get so much return on this product that they won’t have to sell their voting machines any more to stay in business.

And there can’t be anything bad about that.

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