PII Compliant? 500,000 Veterans’ Social Security Numbers Published in the Congressional Record

Just over a year ago, Carl Malamud, the founder of Public.Resource.org, a non-profit dedicated to making public records available online, did the Department of Defense a big proper.


He noticed that the social security numbers of officers were being printed in the Congressional Record. Hundreds of thousands of them. Since copies of the Congressional Record are available online and in print at libraries throughout the United States, this is a big privacy breach.

As a good citizen, Malamud immediately informed the Defense Department’s Inspector General Gordon Heddell; the Government Printing Office, which prints the Congressional Record and publishes it online; and the three major commercial databases that publish online versions of the federal publication: W.S. Hein, LexisNexis and Westlaw.

Remarkably, it took ten months for the complaint to make its way to Defense Department’s Privacy Office.

“We’re at the beginning stages of this,” Jenkins said. “We’re taking this very seriously and aggressively pursuing action.” (As if…) When contacted by Stars and Stripes, military officials could not explain why it took nearly a year to address the complaint.

In contrast, LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters’ Westlaw both removed the data from their services back in 2008. Stars and Stripes found that W.S. Hein, like our federal government,  had still not acted.

As today is Veterans Day, here’s a tip of the hat to Malamud, who switched gears from making public records publicly available, to helping keep the personal data of those servicing the public, private.

And thanks to Stars and Stripes for holding the feet of non-responsive agencies and licensees to the fire.

2 Responses to "PII Compliant? 500,000 Veterans’ Social Security Numbers Published in the Congressional Record"

  • James

    November 11, 2009

    Thanks for sharing this, Dave. Honoring those who serve our country can take many forms and I consider this to be one of them 🙂

  • battery-stores

    May 21, 2010

    Very helpful, thanks so much. I like it.

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