I've just read "Business, bureaucrats hope lawmakers trump Abbott's SSN rule" in Legal News Online and wonder if you noticed who was missing from that headline. How about the citizens of Texas?
That noted, let's clear up a few things.
HB 2061 does not
allow for redaction of a social security number. It allows for redaction of all but the last four digits of a social security number which, ironically, are the most crucial in identity theft.
In a recent article in News For Public Officials
, author David Bloys breaks down the social security number this way:
"Your nine-digit SSN is composed of three parts, only the last part identifies you. The other two sets of numbers identify the group of people who received their numbers from the same region and at approximately the same time as you."
As for business grinding to a halt in Texas when the clerks blocked access to the records; hogwash. That was nothing more than a well-orchestrated sit-in designed to punish Abbott for upsetting the clerks' routine.
As an abstractor, I know personally the importance of access to official records when completing a title order. But the title companies have been buying records in bulk from those few rogue clerks for years in order to create their own title plants and spending less than a penny per record, literally, while the public, who built and paid for the database still pay as much as a dollar per page. As for a disservice to the public, most citizens have never even been to the clerk's office unless it was for a marriage license or copy of a birth certificate and geez, now you can just order a birth certificate online.
No one seems to remember that there are also books
inside the courthouse, which is how records were searched for a hundred years until software salesmen came along and courted a few misguided clerks. One North Carolina clerk answered this way when asked the advantage of online systems over books, "Well, we don't have all those people cluttering up the office."
Funny, isn't it? How we're 'voters' one month and 'clutter' the next?
Don't you find it interesting that Abbott's ruling "triggered a burst of activity" among Texas clerks in removing social security numbers once it was mandated? This is something they could have initiated and should have been doing all along if they'd been concerned at all. But Texas is the corporate home of Affiliated Computer Systems (ACS), Perot Systems, Electronic Data Systems, Hart Intercivic, and countless other software companies and data brokers and as we've witnessed from nearly every public official in Texas except Greg Abbott, money talks. In Texas, big money talks loud.
Yes, Texas representatives "rode to the rescue" of business, bureaucrats and county clerks who pouted until they received HB 2061, but cowardly sold out the everyday citizen by bowing to Big Money in the process. I hope they remembered to pick up their spines at the door.