Oklahoma County Clerk’s records reveal social security numbers

The Social Security numbers of thousands of Oklahoma County residents are available on County Clerk Carolynn Caudill’s website to anyone who wants to look, apparently in violation of federal law.

The numbers are contained on numerous documents filed of record in the county and are easily found by anyone with computerized research experience.

Despite the ease with which the numbers can be found, there are no reports yet of identity theft as a result so far as could be determined.
Social Security numbers of numerous prominent Oklahoma County residents were found with ease and in no case did we find a document where the Social Security number had been redacted, or blacked out, as is required under federal law.

In December 2006, The Oklahoman reported on Caudill’s efforts to make all county records available online. The story, in part: Almost all of some 8.7 million documents — 17 million pages — are online, from mortgage documents, mineral deeds, liens and other legal "papers,” from original land patents granted after the Land Run of 1889 to last week’s property deals, said Mark Mishoe, chief deputy for County Clerk Carolynn Caudill. Universal Commercial Code documents, business and financial filings used to secure collateral, also are online for the entire state, since by statute most UCC filings in Oklahoma go to the Oklahoma County clerk. It’s taken five years, but Caudill said people in real estate and the oil-and-gas business, among others, say the process has been worth it. The conversion cost about $2.5 million — from a $5 fee assessed since 2000 on most documents filed.

While the Social Security numbers appear to have been available for several years on the clerk’s site, it’s been only recently that others have discovered them. Those discoveries apparently resulted in protests made to Caudill, who at tomorrow’s Board of County Commissioner’s meeting will request a requisition of almost $30,000 to hire a firm to begin redacting the numbers.

The board’s agenda contains this item:

28. Discussion and possible action for approval of Statement of Work, HTC Global Services Inc., Redaction Quality Check Services. The scope of this project is to perform the quality check services on the redacted images provided by AMCAD and deliver the updated CVS files along with reports. Requisition No. 10807356 has been issued to HTC Global Services, Inc. in the amount of $29,900.00 from County Clerk’s Records Mgmt. & Preservation Fund/County Clerk/Professional Services Other (1152/1700/54455), contingent upon encumbrance of funds. Requested by Carolynn Caudill, Oklahoma County Clerk, and approved as to form and legality by John M. Jacobsen, Assistant District Attorney. (Document Received)

The Federal Privacy Act was amended in 1976 to require that Social Security Numbers be kept confidential by the local, state and federal government agencies that collect them and that the SSN not be disclosed, and it provides the same penalties for unlawful disclosure as for disclosure of a federal tax return: 1976 AMENDMENT TO THE FEDERAL PRIVACY ACT OF 1974 42 U.S.C. ‘405(c)(2)(C) (i) It is the policy of the United States that any State (or political subdivision thereof) may, in the administration of any tax, general public assistance, driver’s license, or motor vehicle registration law within its jurisdiction, utilize the social security account numbers issued by the Secretary for the purpose of establishing the identification of individuals affected by such law, and may require any individual who is or appears to be so affected to furnish to such State (or political subdivision thereof) or any agency thereof having administrative responsibility for the law involved, the social security account number (or numbers, if he has more than one such number) issued to him by the Secretary. (v) For purposes of clause (i) of this subparagraph, an agency of a State (or political subdivision thereof) charged with the administration of any general public assistance, driver’s license, or motor vehicle registration law which did not use the social security account number for identification under a law or regulation adopted before January 1, 1975, may require an individual to disclose his or her social security number to such agency solely for the purpose of administering the laws referred to in clause (i) above and for the purpose of responding to requests for information from an agency operating pursuant to the provisions of part A or D of subchapter IV of this chapter. (vii)(I) Social security account numbers and related records that are obtained or maintained by authorized persons pursuant to any provision of law, enacted on or after October 1, 1990, shall be confidential, and no authorized person shall disclose any such social security account number or related record. (II) Paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) of section 7213(a) of Title 26 shall apply with respect to the unauthorized willful disclosure to any person of social security account numbers and related records obtained or maintained by an authorized person pursuant to a provision of law enacted on or after October 1, 1990, in the same manner and to the same extent as such paragraphs apply with respect to unauthorized disclosures of returns and return information described in such paragraphs. Paragraph (4) of such 7213(a) of Title 26 shall apply with respect to the willful offer of any item of material value in exchange for any such social security account number or related record in the same manner and to the same extent as such paragraph applies with respect to offers (in exchange for any return or return information) described in such paragraph.

Easily located on Caudill’s site were the Social Security numbers of television news anchors, public officials and prominent business leaders.

About the Author:
Mike McCarville has covered Oklahoma politics and government since he became State Capitol Correspondent for The Tulsa Tribune in 1966. Since, he has been a governor’s press secretary, investigative reporter, television station news executive, radio station program director and talk show host, and political consultant. In 1980, he founded The McCarville Report and it is the nation’s longest-running state political publication. In its online version, it has been called "The best political blog" by Dr. Keith Gaddie, pollster and pundit and "Oklahoma’s venerable McCarville Report" by The Arkansas Times.  McCarville, also a real estate investor and commentator for the National Rifle Association on NRANews.com and Sirius Satellite Radio, is a regular contributor to Tulsa Today.