Section 203 of The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 directed the Secretary of Commerce to develop a certification program limiting access to the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File (DMF), also known to most genealogists as the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). For over a year, Commerce has pursued a robust notice and comment process leading, most recently, to an opportunity for the public to provide comments on a proposed Final Rule.
By the time the comment period closed on Monday, the 30th of March, over ninety parties had docketed statements now appearing at: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketBrowser;rpp=25;po=0;dct=PS;D=DOC-2014-0001 .
The RPAC statement is here:Comments_on_DMF_Final_Rule_from_RPAC_Jan_2015_final
and the FGS statement is here: FGS Response to proposed Final Rule 30 March 2015
Statements from other members of the genealogical community were particularly informative. Examples include:
(1) Dee Dee King Comment #11 on FR Doc # 2014-30199
(2) Polly FitzGerald Kimmitt Comment #2 on FR Doc # 2014-30199
(3) Leslie Lawson Comment #10 on FR Doc # 2014-30199
(4) Judge Nathan White Comment #33 on FR Doc # 2015-01546
The Executive Summary of the FGS statement provides: “While commending the work of NTIS in crafting regulations implementing Section 203 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, as written, we suggest areas where changes in legislative language might enhance the ability to (1) achieve the stated goal of reducing the opportunities for identity theft, and (2) minimize the unintended adverse consequences of limiting access and content available to legitimate users. Further question whether these provisions belong in permanent legislation and suggest ways of assessing their effectiveness and the impact of more targeted measures. A rigorous case study may be appropriate.”
Initiatives to restrict access to records – Targeting the Data
In recent years we have seen more than a thousand legislative initiatives impacting access to records at the Federal, state and local levels, the vast majority of which would have had the effect of limiting that access for genealogical and other purposes. The rationale used to justify these measures suggests an almost reflexive belief that the best or only way to prevent the fraudulent use of such data by identity thieves is to close the records. This logic carries with it the unstated assumption that no harm or loss accompanies such closures.
Not only do members of the genealogical community describe the harm done by closing this record, some interesting allies are being found. Additional dramatic examples of the unintended consequences of closing the DMF are also provided by those involved in federal program evaluation and related research among others:
(1) American Economics Association Comment #44 on FR Doc # 2015-01546
(2) Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics Comment #27 on FR Doc # 2015-01546
[We will supplement this post in coming days after we review and can highlight materials contributed by others.] Done 17 April 2015.