Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Social Security Death Index - MIA?

A tragedy has struck, bringing sad times to genealogists everywhere.  The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) has been removed from the RootsWeb.com site.  In its place is the following explanation:
"Due to sensitivities around the information in this database, the Social Security Death Index collection is not available on our free Rootsweb service but is accessible to search on Ancestry.com. Visit the Social Security Death Index page to be directly connected to this collection."
While you can search the SSDI for free through Ancestry.com, truly useful results are not free.  You either need to subscribe or visit the library to use our subscription.  AND the information isn't completely available for those deceased in the last 10 years now. (I feel they are misleading the public and implying that it's the same information still available at no cost.)  RootsWeb was created as a companion website to Ancestry to provide a place for FREE information to be posted and retrieved by the genealogy community.

Why has this change happened?  Press releases (found here and here) are saying it's to prevent identity theft and fraud.  There's something wrong with this picture because that's the very reason it was created to begin with!  It was created for banks, employers, etc, to check for fraudulent use of Social Security numbers and its publication and updating was mandated.  Congress is now getting involved.  A bill has been introduced to completely prevent public access to the Death Master File from which the SSDI is derived.  The bill explains that access would be granted only as necessary to certain Federal and State agencies.  So far, this has remained "in committee" since it was introduced November 18, 2011.

What's next? Prohibiting the publication of obituaries in the newspaper?  (Don't publish it! A criminal might try to steal grandma's identity now that it's been been made public she's dead!!)  Criminals already steal identities via Social Security numbers while we're alive even though we try to protect it.  Where there's a will, there's a way.  (I think there are much more important issues for government and society to confront and solve than wasting time taking on this faux issue that ultimately ends up impeding genealogy research.  Genealogist will be the ones that suffer, not the criminals.)

After saying all that and taking a deep breath to relax, I am happy to report one site continues to provide full access for FREE at the moment.  That would be the SSDI made available on FamilySearch.org.  It is my hope they are allowed to continue doing so without interference.

No comments:

Post a Comment