Forums: Index > Watercooler > Social Security Numbers

Indications of unease[]

I'm really uncomfortable seeing Social Security Numbers on the site. I'm sure a lot of other people will be uncomfortable with it as well. Anyone have thoughts on this? Chadlupkes 19:57, 9 April 2007 (UTC)

I am rather neutral on this one for deceased people. The Social Security Death Index is freely available on other websites. --Will 01:16, 10 April 2007 (UTC)
The problem with SS numbers is their potential abuse in identity theft. I'd certainly not put down the SS number of someone living. But then, the admonition on this site is not to include information about living persons. I personally don't put down SS numbers for anyone, dead or alive. Practically speaking, I don't think it serves any useful purpose, other than accessing the SSDI. But then, you probably get the number in the first place because you've accessed the SSDI, so what's the point of putting it down? You've already gotten the data you need. Bill 13:07, 10 April 2007 (UTC)
The question I see is not "are SSNs available on other websites" or even "is the person living or dead". My concern is with Chad's third word, his comfort level. If he, if he, if a user as experienced and knowledgeable as Chad is (I'm sure he knows SSNs are available on other websites and I'm sure he knows only the SSNs are listed for dead people), if with all his knowledge Chad is still uncomfortable seeing SSNs, then how much more uncomfortable must a newbie feel seeing SSNs on this website. I think we must strive in all our endeavours to lower the bar of accessibility and encourage participation as much as possible. If seeing a Social Security Number dissuades even one user's input, we do ourselves a disservice.
In brief, it's a terrible idea.
Last line inserted to break passionate plea posited in post. Zephyrinus 11:56, 27 May 2007 (UTC)
Two of you will be relieved to hear that I have no plans to add SSNs. Adding the facts derivable from looking at one is another matter; and we can quote the source as SSDI without quoting the number. Robin Patterson

Another view[]

Hi there! Newbie here... Urm, my sister and I are separated by a very large ocean (I'm in Japan, she's in the States), but we do research together on the family. Sometimes in different locations of the web (Or physical locations), rarely in contact with each other directly. We are astonished and excited to see a Genealogy Wiki, and we are going to (Slowly) convert our research to this site (It's so much easier)... To my point: we both could benefit from having SS#'s available... we often are looking up military records, or need to cross-check a person's identity. We have used the SS#'s extensively. Would it be okay if I put the SS#'s on my entries? We don't put them on living persons (Which I just found out is sorta a no-no... after spending all night making a living persons' record... I'll see what to do about that...) Aabh 14:15, 30 May 2007 (UTC)

Hi Aabh!
As you can tell from foregoing discussion, different people feel differently about the use of SSN. I personally don't have a problem with this for the deceased, but I think putting in such information for the living is not a good idea. You can't control who will view this material. Indeed, I'd be very hesitant about putting in ANY information about someone who was living---it simply makes too much information available to people with ill-intent. You might call avoiding things like this as practicing "safe genealogy". Those would be my personal views. I leave formal policy to Robin's discretion and pleasure. (Note that he's a bit more hard-over on this subject than I.)
And yes, this site is "made" for cooperative genealogy, whether its en famille or with with cousins of greater separation. Bill 14:46, 30 May 2007 (UTC)
Thanks Bill! :D
We decided a long time ago never to put too much info on living members of the family up on any website for the exact reasons you mentioned above. There are a number of reasons to place a deceased's SS#'s online. I guess, then, it is okay if I build a record for that? Aabh 21:22, 30 May 2007 (UTC)
I don't know that we have many "verboten" rules here. (There are some, mostly unwritten I suspect, but they are mostly directed toward courtesy. ie, no flames, no spam). I don't have a hardover position on it, but on this particular issue, I would say "bow to whatever Robin says". Bill 22:58, 30 May 2007 (UTC)

Way forward?[]

Bill is too kind? The alleged "authority" (who can't find "hardover" or "hard-over" in the Concise Oxford Dictionary and who can be marvellously neutral because he has never been in a country that has SSNs of that sort) invites Chad and Zeph to draft some recommendations about SSNs and the SSDI on project:Social Security numbers. We can put it in category:policy as well as category:SSDI and category:privacy so that Zeph's newbies can see that we discourage use of SSNs (maybe even for people who have died if they were born under 100 years ago?). Most of us, however, will not be policing contributions, so that Aabh can probably sneak a few marginal cases in, for good reasons, if he doesn't draw attention to them. Robin Patterson 13:52, 1 June 2007 (UTC)

"Hard-Over" is an americanism, I suspect. The term probably derives from US Navy slang, for making a sharp turn---as when the helmsman is directed to turn the ship's wheel "hard-over". From that it took on the implications of a strong position being taken. My sense was that you were fairly "hard over" on the use of SSN's. That's not a criticism, only an observation based on what you had already said. As a policy position, I think the view appropriate and propert, (ie, "don't place SSN's on the site") though I'm not quite so "hardover". I don't think you should place SSN on the site on general principle, but if the person is already deceased, I can't figure out how it would matter. But then, I suppose that someone with ill-intent could steal the identity of a dead person, especiallly since they aren't going to complain. Might make a problem for the heirs, though. So I think its not a good idea. And I agree, lets let those who are most concerned draft the policy. Bill 15:40, 1 June 2007 (UTC)