I really hate writing headlines like that. But it looks as if plans to severely limit (if not altogether end) public access to the Social Security Death Index are back under discussion. This is all about HR 3475, sponsored by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX3). I was looking at it a while ago and it seemed like bad news to genealogical researchers.
And now, as Johnson’s press release informs us, there will now be hearings on the issue. Oral testimony this Thursday (Feb. 2) will be only from invited witnesses. That group is not terribly likely to include genealogists, but we can still make our opinions known through letters, phone calls and emails. Here are good places to go for information:
• Judy Russell at The Legal Genealogist has the essential post about how to act — what the essential arguments are, where to find the background information. Read it; it is important. Of special note is her list of the Ways and Means committee’s Social Security subcommittee members. Note also the members who take email only from constituents; you’ll want to snail-mail them instead.
• There are further resources here, courtesy of the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy.
• And Kimberly Powell also summarizes the context clearly and concisely. (Kimberly mentions that the Veterans Affairs’ BIRLS Death File on Ancestry has been affected by the current climate, as well.)
Kind of funny, when you think about it. It’s more possible than ever for all sorts of entities to mine the details of our private lives for commercial gain. Yet apparently the burning data security issue of the day involves … clamping down on genealogists? A few weeks back I was musing that it would be edifying to know just how big a proportion of all identity fraud each year would be eliminated by shutting down the SSDI, and whether a broad-scale change in access would really keep the crooks at bay. Hard numbers on the scope of SSDI problems were elusive in media reports about the issue last fall. And lost in the shuffle are examples of how the SSDI actually is a powerful tool to prevent fraud — the reason it was created in the first place.
Time to educate, inform, and raise our voices.
It’s total countdown mode here. I am headed to Salt Lake City for Rootstech on the 1st (is that really tomorrow?), and I can’t wait.
I was a stay-at-home last year, following the posts with envy and thinking, Yep, I gotta get out there next year. And so I am. At the moment I’m still fiddling with my schedule, awash in a sea of great workshop information. I’ve made my own big fat schedule chart that I pore over the way generals obsess over the wall maps in World War II movies. It’s dithering, but very pleasant dithering. (I did manage to abandon my chart-tweaking long enough to sign up for a couple of the hands-on workshops before they filled up.) There will be new friends to look up and official Rootstech bloggers to gawk at. (I promise to gawk in a subtle way. Really.)
Then, too, there’s the prospect of visiting the Family History Library for the first time. I am going through the obligatory first-timer’s agonizing over what to focus on first. Luckily I read Elyse’s sensible post in which she mentioned going for the books that can’t be loaned out. This stopped some of my hyperventilation, thank goodness. I’m still hyperventilating a bit, but it can now be handled by a lunch-sized brown paper bag as opposed to a supermarket-sized one.
Off to pack all my notes and drives and lists. Oh, and I guess I’d better pack some clothes, too.