Thursday, September 04, 2008

Iowa SS Numbers are "FOR SALE"! Come and Get Em!

You may have seen this in other newspapers like the Chicago Tribune because the AP picked up the story and my quote.

"The possible sale of the records raised red flags among some Iowans on Wednesday.

"Selling these, I personally believe, is not ethical," said Steffen Schmidt, an Iowa State University political science professor and co-author of "The Silent Crime," a new book about identity theft. "The responsibility of public agencies is to serve the public and it's not usually to turn their assets into commodities."


The headline read - "Planned sale of Iowans' records intensifies privacy concerns" By Jason Clayworth, September 4, 2008, desmoinesregister.com
Operators of a public records Web site that lists the Social Security numbers of thousands of Iowans confirmed Wednesday that they have been attempting to sell the information to a real estate database company.

The site came under fire this week from privacy watchdogs who said personal data on it could lead to identity theft. Portions of the site containing personal data were temporarily shut down on Wednesday.

The site, IowaLandRecords.org, includes home mortgage records and other documents from each of the state's 99 counties. It is run by the Iowa County Recorders Association, a group of county officials who electronically post hundreds of thousands of public documents from the 99 counties.

"Iowa Land Records is a valuable and important resource to the real estate industry and to the citizens of Iowa," said Joyce Jensen, chairwoman of the Iowa Land Records governing board and Cass County recorder. "That value diminishes when information is restricted."

The recorders association this year negotiated selling its mammoth database and ongoing updates to Data Tree, a company that manages more than 4 billion records nationwide. Unsigned documents obtained by The Des Moines Register on Wednesday show Data Tree would have paid an estimated $11,750 a month for the information.

But recorders association officials agreed to temporarily hold off on the sale earlier this year after lawmakers expressed concern, a spokesman for the association said Wednesday.

Lawmakers have set up an interim committee, partly to review the possible sale. That committee will meet in November.

The possible sale of the records raised red flags among some Iowans on Wednesday.

"Selling these, I personally believe, is not ethical," said Steffen Schmidt, an Iowa State University political science professor and co-author of "The Silent Crime," a new book about identity theft. "The responsibility of public agencies is to serve the public and it's not usually to turn their assets into commodities."

The recorders association's Web site costs roughly $700,000 a year to run. It's paid largely by a $1 fee for documents that are recorded. In addition, most counties allocate $2,000 a year from their local budgets to support the project.

The unsigned agreement would prohibit Data Tree from disclosing confidential information to any third party.

The nearly $12,000-a-month income from Data Tree would help offset the site's costs, said Phil Dunshee, a project manager for IowaLandRecords.org. The information would be more useful for companies if it were sold in bulk format so they wouldn't have to search for it document by document, he said.

"You've got companies that use this information for credit reports and other legitimate business purposes," Dunshee said. "These are not identity thieves we're talking about. They're in the real estate industry or their customers are in the real estate industry."

Bill Blue, president of the Iowa Land Title Association, said his group is concerned that the information could ultimately be sold to third parties and used to solicit Iowans. He pointed to articles in the Washington Post that have outlined how such public record sales in other states have been used to hawk everything from auto services to new cars to weight-loss programs.

Blue is also concerned that confidential information, such as Social Security numbers, won't remain confidential.

"If it's sold, it's gone. You can do all the redacting you want to your own records and it won't help," he said.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled last month that privacy interests outweigh the interests of companies that collect public real estate records for profit.

Similar rulings have been made in Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, according to Source of Title, a business industry support group based in Ohio.

Some Iowa lawmakers were worried Wednesday about the possible sale of the information.

"The information has generally been open to the public, but people who wanted to get it had to go to 99 different counties," said Sen. Steve Warnstadt, a Sioux City Democrat. He is a co-chairman of the legislative study committee on public records.

Sen. Steve Kettering, a Lake View Republican who is also a committee member, said he believes the public records should, at the very least, be sanitized of private information that may used to steal identities.

"I'm concerned about the access that unscrupulous people have to the data that government collects," Kettering said.
All we can say to the Iowa government agencies is "Git 'Er Done!" The idea that each consumer has to request that Social Security numbers be removed from older posted records (before the use of the SS # was prohibited on these documents) at the request of each consumer is absurd! It is in the interest of the State of Iowa to protect all consumers proactively. If ID theft happens the cost to the state of investigating and prosecuting is much higher than the expense of scrubbing old records.

r

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

  • All Material is Copyright © 2009 Michael McCoy and SEAS, L.L.C
  • Deter. Detect. Defend. Avoid ID Theft - www.ftc.gov/idtheft