House passes Senate SSN bill

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The US House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee July 18 unanimously passed on to the Senate the Social Security Number Privacy and Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2007.

If the bill, HR 3046, is passed by the Senate, companies would be restricted in the ways they could use Social Security numbers.

"Federal, state and local governments would be prohibited from selling SSNs [and] displaying SSNs to the general public, including on the Internet," the bill says. "[They would also be prohibited from] displaying SSNs on checks issued for payment and accompanying documents."

The Direct Marketing Association expressed concern over the bill's language in a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee.

The DMA was looking for a specific addition to the bill that would say it is acceptable for marketers and companies to use Social Security numbers as long as it's for legitimate purposes. The DMA seeks an exemption in the bill that would preserve critical business-to-business uses of the numbers for fraud-detection purposes.

The DMA's request to the House committee echoes similar positions set forth in a letter signed jointly by the DMA, the Consumer Data Industry Association, the US Chamber of Commerce and other trade associations.

While the law excludes the private sector from selling or buying Social Security numbers, it includes several exceptions, including some for law enforcement, tax and credit firms.

Reps. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Joe Barton (R-TX) introduced bill HR 948 to make it unlawful to sell or buy Social Security numbers, an approach also proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

Exceptions include law enforcement and national security purposes, public health reasons, research, "legitimate" consumer credit verification and emergency situations.

These bills are still awaiting senatorial review.
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