Social Security New York Social Security Protection Number Law

  1. As a result of a growing identity theft problem, New York state enacted the "New York Social Security Number Protection Law". This law will protect your social security number by punishing companies who have this confidential information and fail to provide proper protection. This act also places limits on the use and dissemination of your social security number.

    Coverage of the Social Security Number Protection Statute

    The statute applies to individuals, corporations, partnerships and any party except for government. It covers the nine digit Social Security number that is issued to citizens and residents of the United States by the federal government (the Social Security Administration or "SSA"). The statute's protection also covers any number that can be derived from your Social Security number - which means that businesses that use the last four digits will also be required to abide by this law. The statute covers the communication of and maintenance of records that contain your Social Security number. Encrypted numbers are specifically excluded from coverage under this law.

    Access Limits to Your Social Security Number

    This law requires reasonable measures to be adopted limiting access to your Social Security number by those that need this access. There must be a legitimate purpose for allowing employees to have this privilege. The definition of "reasonable measures" is not specified but a failure to take some prudent action would leave a company open to litigation for breaches of the law.

    Communications Rules Regarding Social Security Numbers

    There are five areas that the New York Social Security Number Protection Law tries to regulate in order to minimize the theft of this valuable, confidential information. The statute makes the following acts illegal and specifically prohibits:
    • the intentional communication of an individual's Social Security number to the general public;
    • printing someone's Social Security number on a card or tag so that the person can have access to products, services or benefits;
    • the requirement that someone transmit their Social Security number online unless there is a secure connection or the number is encrypted;
    • The requirement that someone use their Social Security number to access a website on the Internet - the exception being where a password, unique identification number or other device for authentication of the user is also required to access the website;
    • printing someone's Social Security number on any items that are mailed unless required by state or federal law. This does not prevent someone from including their Social Security number on applications or other forms. It also requires that if the Social Security number is necessary to be printed, it may not appear visible, such as on a postcard or unsealed envelope.

    There are two other parts of the statute that also recently went into effect in 2009, which includes:
    • the prohibition against encoding or embedding the Social Security number in an electronic card or document, including magnetic strips, bar codes or other technologies instead of removing the number. (If the requirement is that the number cannot appear, "hiding" it in a bar code or magnetic strip only makes it a little harder for anyone to simply get hold of the number);
    • making it illegal to file any public document (such as in an agency or court) that includes a Social Security account number except as may be required by federal or state law or court rule. (This would make it easy for people to get access to your public records and get hold of the number.)

    Penalties for Failure to Comply with the Law

    A violation of this law will result in a civil penalty of not more than $1,000 for a single violation and $100,000 for multiple violations. First offenses seem to be a small punishment. But second offenders can be punished with civil penalties of not more than $5,000 per single violation and up to $250,000 for multiple violations.
    Health, Medical & Social:
    Social Security
    Jurisdiction:
    • New York

    Michael M. Wechsler

    Michael M. Wechsler
    Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of TheLaw.com, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at Zedge.net and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.

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