Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ask if a SSN is required prior to providing it

It is literally amazing how many government agencies ask for require a SSN and simply state the Privacy Act of 1974 authorizes it.

I went to the Workforce One Development Website. It requires an individual’s SSN to register. I read through the privacy statement, but found nothing relating to it being required by Federal Statute. I sent an email asking if it was voluntary or mandatory and this is what I got as a reply.

Dear Mr. Larsen:

Thank you for your question and your interest in This website is managed by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. We receive federal funding and are required to have an online labor exchange system. As such, we are required to report on the number of participants, services provided, and outcomes such as referrals and placements. We use social security numbers to distinguish between participants for our federal reporting. This is a secure system and only a limited number of staff are able to see the social security numbers. The social security numbers are not available to employers. We require that every person registering provide a social security number. If the individual does not want to provide a social security number then he or she can access the services that are available without registering. These services are somewhat limited but there are still some great features available. Just follow the links off of the home page and see what is available. We hope that the information and services are good enough on the site that people will want to register and as it is a state website will feel comfortable providing their social security number. Please ask if you have additional questions or would like to discuss the topic further. You can email

Thank you.

Lauren D. Bogan

The Privacy Act regulates the use of SSNs by government agencies. When a Federal, State, or local government agency asks an individual to disclose his or her Social Security number, the Privacy Act requires the agency to inform the person of the following: the statutory or other authority for requesting the information; whether disclosure is mandatory or voluntary;

what uses will be made of the information; and the consequences, if any, of failure to provide the information.

If a business or other enterprise asks you for your SSN, you can refuse to give it. However, that may mean doing without the purchase or service for which your number was requested. For example, utility companies and other services ask for a Social Security number, but do not need it; they can do a credit check or identify the person in their records by alternative means. Giving your number is voluntary, even when you are asked for the number directly. If requested, you should ask why your number is needed, how your number will be used, what law requires you to give your number and what the consequences are if you refuse. The answers to these questions can help you decide if you want to give your Social Security number. The decision is yours.

The Privacy Act of 1974 is a great statute (5 USC 552a).

Sec. 552a. - Records maintained on individuals

(e) Agency Requirements. -

Each agency that maintains a system of records shall inform each individual whom it asks to supply information, on the form which it uses to collect the information or on a separate form that can be retained by the individual –

(A) the authority (whether granted by statute, or by executive order of the President) which authorizes the solicitation of the information and whether disclosure of such information is mandatory or voluntary;

(B) the principal purpose or purposes for which the information is intended to be used;

(C) the routine uses which may be made of the information, as published pursuant to paragraph (4)(D) of this subsection; and

(D) the effects on him, if any, of not providing all or any part of the requested information;

More Specifically there is section 7


Section 7 of Pub. L. 93-579 provided that:

(a)(1) It shall be unlawful for any Federal, State or local government agency to deny to any individual any right, benefit, or privilege provided by law because of such individual's refusal to disclose his social security account number.

(2) the (The) provisions of paragraph (1) of this subsection shall not apply with respect to –

(A) any disclosure which is required by Federal statute, or

(B) the disclosure of a social security number to any Federal, State, or local agency maintaining a system of records in existence and operating before January 1, 1975, if such disclosure was required under statute or regulation adopted prior to such date to verify the identity of an individual.

(b) Any Federal, State, or local government agency which requests an individual to disclose his social security account number shall inform that individual whether that disclosure is mandatory or voluntary, by what statutory or other authority such number is solicited, and what uses will be made of it.'


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