|Received:||9/5/2007 7:21:33 AM|
|Organization:||White Hat Solutions, LLC|
|Agency:||Federal Trade Commission|
|Rule:||Private Sector Use of SSNs|
Comments:RE: SSNs In The Private Sector - Comment, Project No. P075414 ______ While I applaud efforts to prevent identity theft, this pendulum is swinging entirely too far. Preventing legitimate use of SSNs with legislation will have the chilling effect of virtually eliminating an entire industry - that of private investigations. With 25+ years of experience in this field, using SSNs prior to current restrictions, I was able to successfully verify identities, to locate witnesses (for both criminal and civil cases) and, in one instance found thousands of persons who were owed money from a soon-to-be defunct pension fund that was making disbursements. I don't believe one of those people in the latter were at all upset that we were able to track them down, even after over ten years had passed from their last known address. I don't believe most investigations use the actual credit portion history (even presuming current requirements of a signed waiver). For instance, in the case of professional licensing, pre- or post-employment background investigations or financial crimes cases, personal credit history from any of the three main bureaus is generally of little value. What IS of value is header information on previous employment and residence listings (do they match the job application or resume?), historical references to certain events (geographic moves, for instance, in cases where there has been no reference by the applicant to living in a previous city). In short, we look for discrepancies, rather than taking information contained therein at face value. Indeed, more than anything, these types of consumer reports are lead generators - information which must then be independently verified with face-to-face interviews, other public records checks (for instance criminal and civil court cases in previously unknown or undisclosed residence jurisdictions) or other sources. However, without the valid use of the SSN, these value added services would become obsolete to the public sector and only the federal or local governments would be able to properly screen applicants. In turn, this would lead to increased liability on the part of the private sector employers. There are literally hundreds of cases where post-employment background investigations were needed because of threats of workplace violence, harassment or other potentially harmful behavior was either exhibited or reported. Currently investigators must INFORM anyone being looked at by their employer PRIOR to any investigation. Further requirements allow for witness identities to also be disclosed. This is the pendulum swinging too far for privacy sake by stifling witnesses who fear retribution. Outside the workplace, there are thousands of cases where restricted yet legitimate use of SSNs allowed persons to find lost relatives such as parents who gave their child up for adoption - or in some cases I've worked – parents who didn't even know they had a child! Without careful use (and judicious restraint in contacting the lost relative to find out if they WANT to be found prior to disclosing to the client) of SSNs, NONE of these happy reunions would have taken place. Finally, I am a believer that LICENSED private investigators should have access, through some restrictive means, to view and research full (not truncated) SSNs in their investigations. Further restrictions will only create a worse environment, like a black market underground where ANYONE can purchase the information. Set restrictions for legitimate use (sometimes cross-checking SSNs can also eliminate someone as a witness/suspect) by private investigators and put teeth in the law to punish those who don't follow it. Unrestricted activity proliferates on the Internet. That is what is causing the current backlash.