*Congress Closes, Social Security Numbers Bill Halted

Direct markets are happy that a measure which would have prohibited the general public from access to Social Security numbers without the individual's consent was not added to a Senate appropriations bill.

On Dec. 15, the 106th Congress came to a close with the passing of two fiscal year 2001 spending bills. President Clinton is expected to sign the bills into law this week.

One bill that was passed was H.R. 4690, the appropriations bill of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary.

This summer, an amendment was added to the CJSJ appropriations bill that was introduced by Sen. Judd Gregg, R-NH. It prohibits displaying Social Security numbers on the Internet to the general public for commercial purposes without consent. It also prohibits the use of Social Security numbers to locate or identify an individual with the intent to harm the individual or use the identity of the individual for illegal purposes.

The amendment was originally called Amy Boyer's Law. It was named after a New Hampshire woman who was killed by a stalker who had obtained her Social Security number and the address of her place of employment via the Internet.

Late last week, the measure was removed from the CJSJ bill in an effort to get the bill passed. Reportedly, there was controversy surrounding the bill. Members of Congress' Privacy Caucus, for example, did not support it because they believed it had broad exceptions that would end up validating the sale and trade of Social Security numbers beyond that which is codified in current law.

Still, the Direct Marketing Association has stated that it did not support the bill. It also said that since it was not passed, protection of Social Security numbers would be a hot topic in the new Congress.

Ed Amorosi, a spokesman for Sen. Gregg, agreed.

“We will take another look at [the amendment] next year and see what can be done with it,” Amorosi said.

The other FY2001 spending bill that was passed was H.R. 4577, a combined bill that included appropriations for the following departments: Labor; Health and Human Services; Education and Treasury; as well as the U.S. Postal Service and the legislative branch.

Total funding for programs under the jurisdiction of the Subcommittee on Treasury, Postal Service and General Government was $15.9 billion, an increase of $2.25 billion above the FY2000 enacted levels, or 16.4 percent.

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