Cisive, and the employment screening industry as a whole, has been experiencing an increase in delays in time service in certain jurisdictions as a direct result of these jurisdictions eliminating key personal identifiers in court records, especially social security numbers (SSN). With the ever increasing frequency of identity theft, many courts are now removing personal identifiers from the public record provided for public inspections. In those situations where we previously received the court file or a printout to substantiate positive identification, we are now required to submit requests directly to the clerk to confirm identification or disposition. This generally results in a delay, especially for common name searches.
There has been persistent interest, both at the federal and the state level, in restricting the display or even the use of SSNs. Much of this interest is driven by worries about the misuse of the SSN for identification fraud. For over five years, Congress has strived unsuccessfully to enact a balanced and appropriate SSN privacy bill, e.g., H.R. 2971, Clay Shaw’s (R-FL) longstanding bill, and Senator Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) companion bill, S. 2801.
In the absence of federal action, several states, including California and Florida, have already enacted legislation to impose state statutory restrictions. In 2004, 17 states enacted SSN privacy legislation (see previous issues of the Cisivennection (TM) newsletter for specific legislative information). Seven of these new laws took the form of restrictions on the ability of employers, state government agencies and, in some cases, other types of entities, such as insurances companies, from displaying the full SSN on an individual’s identification card or other documentation. Washington, Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma, Illinois, Louisiana and Colorado all enacted this kind of legislation.
In addition, West Virginia and Florida enacted legislation this year that exempts SSNs from disclosure under the state’s Freedom of Information Act or public records law. Maine enacted a “denial of service” law which prohibits a business from denying goods or services to an individual who refuses to provide a business with their SSN. Wisconsin adopted a new law that prohibits any institution of higher education in the state from using a social security number as a student ID. California, which already has a comprehensive SSN privacy law, “piled on” by enacting two bills that toughened the restrictions on the use and display of SSNs and, on June 21, 2004, California’s Chief Justice of the Supreme Court formed a new committee to consider privacy concerns when drafting a policy on public access to computerized court records. Finally, Illinois enacted a very ambitious law creating a “social security number protection task force” which is charged with examining a wide array of potential strategies and remedies for protecting SSN privacy.
Currently, Cisive is experiencing time service delays in jurisdictions directly related to redacted personal identifiers that include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:
1. Florida – The State’s Judicial Council has recommended that courts NOT provide unrestricted access to records until policies balancing privacy and access are developed. Several counties have since removed identifiers from their public access terminals and Internet access.
2. Virginia – Virginia has established a project to put the case management abstracts of selected courts on the Internet AFTER removing personal identifying material such as social security numbers, telephone numbers, and street addresses. HB 2426 prohibits information already available in the public courts records from going online. The prohibited information includes SSN, birth date, signatures and exact address(es). The law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2004 however, several amendments have been made thus far providing exclusions depending on whether there is a subscription and auditing function to the system. This issue is still under debate at the state level.
3. Kern County, CA – DOB’s removed from public view.
4. Los Angeles, CA – Court clerk MUST perform the actual search. Public Access methods, primarily microfiche, have no identifiers.
5. Monroe County, IN – SSNs have been masked or removed from public view on the public access terminals.
6. Jefferson County, KY – District Courts deleted all SSNs from all records in the computerized index system.
7. West Virginia – All Counties – ALL magistrate courts are removing ALL personal identifiers, except the name.
8. Hamilton County, OH – Issue being reviewed at this time. Domestic court judges in Butler County have ordered documents in their cases be kept off the Internet. The Judges were concerned that SSNs and other information could be used for identity theft.
In addition, it should also be noted that Federal criminal history record searches, while not the result of recent legislative trends, typically do not include personal identifying information other than just the name. As a result, all name matches require us to request the file to be retrieved by the court clerk, which results in time delays.
As you can see, this is a very hot issue right now, with no signs of abating. We ask your understanding as time service delays may occur due to conditions beyond our control. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your Customer Service Representative.