Press Releases

Senate Passes Feinstein, Gregg Legislation to Protect the Privacy of Social Security Numbers

-Legislation stops prison work programs from granting prisoners access to Social Security Numbers-

Washington, DC – The U.S. Senate has approved legislation by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) that aims to reduce identity theft by protecting the privacy of Social Security numbers.

The Social Security Number Protection Act stops prison work programs from granting prisoners access to Social Security numbers. The Social Security Administration had warned that employing prisoners in jobs that require them to access Social Security numbers increases the chances of identity theft.

The Social Security Administration’s Inspector General found that as of March 2010, facilities in eight states continued to employ prisoners in these jobs.

The bill, passed by unanimous consent Tuesday night, would require government entities to stop employing prisoners in any jobs that require access to Social Security numbers within one year. It also would prohibit any federal, state or local agency from printing Social Security numbers on government checks.

“Social Security numbers are among Americans’ most valuable but vulnerable assets. These numbers act like keys – allowing thieves to open credit card and bank accounts, and even apply for government benefits,” said Senator Feinstein. “It is essential that we rein in the widespread use and display of these numbers.  They must be kept secure and out of the hands of criminals and organized crime groups that seek to profit from their sale and misuse.”

“As online activity and identify theft continue to increase, we must redouble efforts to guard personal identifying information,” Senator Gregg said. “I am proud to have worked with Senator Feinstein to pass legislation through the Senate that will establish strong, common sense prohibitions on the access to and display of Social Security numbers, keeping them safe from fraud and other harmful uses.  I am hopeful that the House of Representatives will move quickly to pass this important bipartisan measure in order to enhance the privacy of all Americans.”

The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), John Barrasso (R-Wyo), and Tom Coburn (R-Okla). It is supported by the National Sheriffs’ Association, the National Identity Theft Resource Center and the Consumer Federation of America.