Governor Signs Bill to Truncate SSNs in Public Records
|December 5, 2007|
|Assembly Bill No. 1168 [pdf]|
California became less hospitable to identity thieves today with the governor’s signature of a bill to rid public records of social security numbers. Governor Schwarzenegger’s endorsement of AB 1168, authored by California State Assemblymember Dave Jones (D – Sacramento), requires that some state and local government offices stop making full social security numbers available on publicly-available records.
The new Law (Assembly Bill 1168), deals with redaction of a part of the Social Security number from public records maintained by a county recorder. Highlights: 1) a document presented for filing cannot contain more than the "last four" of a person's SSN, but recorders are not required to examine and reject documents which don't comply, 2) to the extent funding is available, county recorders are required to establish a truncation program to redact the "first five" to create an electronic, "public copy" of the official record [back to 1980], and 3) recorders can collect $1.00 per newly filed document to pay for their truncation program.
"Score one for the good guys," Jones said. "The governor’s signature of AB 1168 is a victory for consumers and a loss for fraudsters. It’s now the policy in California that these agencies render social security numbers useless to identity thieves. They should have been doing this long ago." In this era of rampant ID theft, it is astonishing that government agencies make SSNs available to the general public – routinely, and on the cheap. Jones said the heart of his measure was a requirement that county recorders start truncating SSNs in their files so that no more than the last four digits remain. Up to five percent of recorded documents – including tax liens, military discharge papers, civil judgments, and others – include full SSNs. That puts the statewide total at several million records – freely available to anyone.
The governor’s signature of the bill comes on the heels of a privacy poll released by Consumers Union, which found that consumers want strong protections for their SSNs. Referring to the poll, Jones said, "If 96% of consumers don’t think businesses should sell their social security numbers, why should government offices be able to just give them away? It just doesn’t make sense. The governor’s signature on my bill will help eliminate government as a cause of identity theft."
AB 1168 is supported by a wide range of law enforcement, consumer privacy, senior, and labor groups. It takes effect January 1, 2008.