In mid-December, I sent an email to my Senator, Sherrod Brown, expressing concern about his move to limit access to the Social Security Death Index. Yesterday, I received a reply from Sen. Brown explaining his beliefs on this matter. First some background:
Brown and three other senators contacted Ancestry.com and other providers of the SSDI to genealogists and requested that they stop providing access to social security records of deceased persons. What prompted them to do this was a case in which unscrupulous individuals requested and received a refund of the Internal Revenue Service for the a child that was deceased. Supposely, they were able to do this because the child's social security number was available in the SSDI. The case gained public attention when the parents filed a legitimate return and were turned down.
You can read my previous post on this issue by clicking here.
I'd suggest you read two other reports that discuss the issue: Kimberly Powell at About Genealogy (click here) and Megan Smolenyak on her Roots World blog (click here).
Dear Mr. Huskonen:
Thank you for getting in touch with me regarding the posting of Social Security numbers of deceased individuals.
Social Security numbers of deceased individuals are available for public purchase through the Death Master File (DMF). Due to the fact that an individual’s right to privacy is extinguished upon death, websites such as Ancestry.com are able post the Social Security numbers of deceased individuals.
Unfortunately, posting such personal information can provide unscrupulous individuals with the tools needed to commit consumer fraud, including tax and credit card fraud. No family should ever have to discover that a loved-one’s personal information has been stolen and used for ill-intentioned purposes. This is why I wrote to the Ancestry.com and several other genealogy websites urging them to remove Social Security numbers from their websites. I am pleased that Ancestry.com has agreed to this request.
I have heard from a number of genealogists and historians who are concerned that the removal of Social Security numbers from genealogy websites will hinder their ability to trace family ancestry. While I understand Social Security numbers are be a valuable tool for tracking a family’s history, I believe the unintended consequences of this practice outweigh the benefits.
I appreciate you sharing your views on this issue with me. Thank you again for writing.
United States Senator