Crowdfunding public access to the Social Security death index

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/07/14/rip-rip-rip.html

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Death Master File (aka Death Index)

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This sounds great for genealogy research. However, after dealing with posthumous financial offers as the administrator of an estate, the thought of this makes me cringe. Would pointing companies to this data make it easier to get those solicitations to stop, or is this just making it easier for identity thieves? :thinking:

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Funny, I was wondering the opposite, where you have an easy cross-check for many identity thieves (mainly in the prosecutable short-term for current instances), but what about massive data harvesting by facebook et al?

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Ugh, I can imagine awful unsolicited messages to the families of the deceased - based on relationship, date of death, etc…:face_vomiting:

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The full list was available online several years ago. I understand it was taken down because scammers were targeting the families of the deceased.

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Hey, here’s a novel idea: just stop publishing people’s names, DOBs, and SSNs.

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I share your concern in general; but it sounds like the cat is already out of the bag for malicious actors:

“you can buy a limited version of that from the SSA for $2.3k + $3.4k/yr; the SSA has quoted access to the full version at $5.2k.”

The scammers and data brokers and such are barely going to notice having to drop $5k occasionally to update their all-US dataset; but it’s a nontrivial sum for less immediately remunerative uses of public records.

If it’s too useful to scammers, the access level needs to be “do you have an NIH approved study, a need to know, data handling and destruction policy?”; if not there’s no good reason for a public record to have an access cost that suggests it’s either being sold for profit or still being manually located and duplicated by Dickensian scriveners. $5k is right in that ugly place where it presents a significant barrier to the public and will barely be noticed by economic criminals.

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I get the feeling that shredding documents containing PII has become a waste of my time.

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Without the DOBs, it makes it far less useful to genealogists.

And regular people who need legal proof of d.o.d. but do not have power of attorney.

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