December 15, 2011

The SSDI is Disappearing From Sight

Genealogists who use the free online SSDI (Social Security Death Index) to find ancestors may have a tougher hunt ahead.

In the past, genealogists could access the SSDI through numerous websites - Ancestry.com, Rootsweb.com, GenealogyBank and others.

But concerns arose that the Social Security Numbers given with the SSDI were being used in Identity Theft scams and  U.S. Senators blitzed these websites to request that they stop displaying this information. In the face of mounting pressure, many of the genealogy websites caved.

This week, many of the sites withdrew access entirely (Rootsweb for example withdrew the SSDI completely) or blocked access so only paying members could view the details. Ancestry blocked access by putting the database behind its  subscrption membership wall and will no longer provide the Social Security numbers for anyone who died in the previous 10 years. Genealogy Bank still has free access to the SSDI but you must register with a name and email to view the data.

It seems quite a leap to me to make the assumption that thieves were using the SSDI to gather  Social Security Numbers. I'm quite sure they found much faster and easier ways to get these numbers. And so the genealogy community is forced to watch as the SSDI slowly disappears, either behind closed membership walls or removed completely. Is this yet another example of a few bad apples spoiling it for the rest of us (genealogists)?

For more articles on this topic see Website stops displaying Social Security numbers for recently dead and Stealing from the dead.

Caveat: the two articles above from ABC News are in favour of the SSDI being removed.  I expect to see other bloggers discussing this topic from a different point of view than ABC so keep your eyes open for other articles

5 comments:

Unknown said...

It is not fair that a private company is given rights to publish a federal program (SSDI), yet I have to pay to see it. My tax monies are involved here and this database should be free and easily available. Word verification is not available for me to post this.

Anonymous said...

I use the SSDI to confirm death, not collect Social Security numbers. Why not redact the number but leave the remaining information available. I'm sad to see this source of information go away or become available only to those who have means to pay,

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if the SS number were redacted. However I am sure this is being used to aid fraud just as obituaries are used to promote thefts from the homes of the bereaved. Let us hope this is a temporary measure until some company gets all those new (past 10 ) years numbers redacted.

Jim Macey said...

Basically, the reports are stating that Ancestry.com didn't want to provide the info for free, on the Rootsweb site (which is a free site); all the data is available for a paid subscriber. They no longer show the SS number for someone who died in the last 10 years. They could have done the same thing for Rootsweb, but they are using the security excuse to remove this data from a free site which they own. That's how I see it...

Jim Macey said...

The reports are basically stating that Ancestry moved the SSDI away from Rootsweb (a free site) and has the info for subscribers only. They no longer show the SSnumber for someone who died in the last 10 years, to satisfy the security concerns - and this could have been done on the Rootsweb site, also. They are trying to force people to buy a subscription. That's how I see it...