The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memo (PDF) to the Federal Government in attempts to safeguard against the breach of personally identifiable information requiring Federal Agencies to review their use of Social Security numbers. They have 120 days to come up with a plan to eliminate unnecessarily collecting them and participate in government-wide efforts to find alternate ways of identifying you.
Literally billions of records of personal information are collected by the government for a wide variety of reasons (Medicare, taxes, loans…the list goes on and on). The memo reminded agencies that they have a legal obligation under the Privacy Act of 1974 and the 2004 Federal Information Security Management Act (PDF) to protect personal data.
As well as setting a deadline for the agencies, the OMB is directing agencies to develop and implement notification policies suitable to potential risks caused by breaches of personal information and to take steps to protect federal infomation on laptops and other mobile devices.
“Safeguarding personally identifiable information in the possession of the government and preventing its breach are essential to ensure the government retains the trust of the American public,” Clay Johnson, Deputy Director for Management wrote in the memo. “This is a responsibility shared by officials accountable for administering operational and privacy and security programs, legal counsel, Agencies’ Inspectors General and other law enforcement, and public and legislative affairs.”