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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: December 11, 2014 12:23 PM
From: Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf
To: All Senate members
Subject: Protecting Social Security Numbers
I am reintroducing Senate Bill 1198, legislation that will further strengthen Pennsylvania’s Privacy of Social Security Numbers Law by prohibiting a person, entity or state agency/political subdivision from denying services, privileges or rights to an individual who refuses to disclose their Social Security Number (SSN).

Both private and public sector entities have come to utilize an individual’s SSN as the primary method for identification for non-Social Security purposes. Given the importance of a SSN in stealing a person’s identity or committing fraud, we need to ensure that we protect the privacy of consumers.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics report, Identity Theft Reported by Households 2005-2010, 7% of households in the United States, or about 8.6 million households, had at least one person age 12 or older who experienced one or more types of identity theft victimization in 2010. During that same year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported more than 9,000 complaints of identity theft in Pennsylvania. For 2012, the FTC indicated that identity theft complaints represented 18% of the 2 million consumer complaints they received that year.

In 2006 the General Assembly passed the Privacy of Social Security Numbers Law which prohibits a person, entity or state agency/political subdivision from engaging in certain activities, such as 1) posting or publicly displaying SSNs; 2) printing SSNs on cards required to access the company’s products or services; 3) requiring people to transmit an SSN over the Internet unless the connection is secure or the number is encrypted; 4) requiring people to log into a website using a SSN without a password; and 5) printing SSNs on anything mailed to a customer unless required by law or the document is a form or application. The law does, however, provide several exceptions (i.e., required by federal or state law, internal verification, law enforcement investigations, financial institutions) to the general prohibition.

My legislation would enhance the existing law by preventing a person, entity or public agency from denying services to a new customer because they refuse to furnish their SSN. Consumers wishing to obtain services from a company (i.e., cable, telephone) should not be forced to give their SSN. The bill adds employment and tax compliance purposes to the current list of exceptions whereby a SSN could still be requested. The measure is modeled after a New York law enacted in 2012.

Introduced as SB177