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Social Security Numbers on New York State Website Get Easy Visibility

New York Dept. of State removed certain public records from its Web site. These records included the SSN (Social Security Numbers) and other private details of ordinary citizens and renowned celebrities like Joe Namath and Donald Trump.

The State Department had posted documents relating to commercial loans that contained social security numbers, and these were visible with an easy name search. After Associated Press's warning to the government officials about the issue, the department blocked the visibility of the information that took more than three hours.

Larry Sombke, spokesman of New York Department of State said in news for MSNBC that there were a number of factors resulting in the removal of the commercial loan documents from the state Web site, other than press reports.

The state officials posted the documents on the Web site to facilitate lenders to know more about the financial abilities of probable borrowers. Sombke said the state was examining as many solutions that can handle personal privacy and viewer ship of public records side by side.

Also included in the information was many farmers' social security numbers who had acquired the loans to purchase farm machinery and other equipments. Julie Suarez of the New York Farm Bureau said the information's release could cause displeasure to farmers across New York.

Suarez said on Friday February 2, 2007 that the Bureau had carried out ample research on the problem and they were getting more and more concerned, according to reports of 1010wins.com. Providing the personal information was an optional rule in the form, however everybody may not have been aware of that.

It was not quite clear late Friday, till when the information became visible on the site. A Virginia privacy rights activist, B.J. Ostergren first noted the Social Security Number postings.

In the opinion of State Sen. Charles Fuschillo, a sponsor of laws on identity theft, government web sites should not do anything that can enable identity thieves to access private information.

In January the office of the Vermont Secretary of State similarly brought down its links to files that listed Social Security Numbers of various persons.

Related article: SoCal Computer Hack Traces to Watsonville

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