An interesting article in the New York Times came across my monitor this afternoon: "Research Is Hampered by New Limits on Death Records."
At first glance, I thought this article would be about genealogists struggling to get information on dead ancestors. But you know what? Apparently genealogists are not the only people who used the Social Security Death Master Index!
For some reason, this never occurred to me, probably because of so much focus being put on genealogists as identity thieves. Hrmmmph.
For instance, that article states that "a research group that produces reports on organ-transplant survival rates is facing delays because of the extra work it must do to determine whether patients are still alive."
Also, "Other medical researchers, including those conducting long-term federally financed studies of cancer and cardiovascular treatments, said the changes imposed last November were now slowing their work significantly."
Another interviewee said that the new policy has "thrown us back to the pre-Internet era where you'd start looking in the phone book for someone with a similar name and sending out a bunch of letters."
Wow, that sounds like old-school genealogy!
And it's possible that restricting access to the DMI is making the identity thief's job even easier. For example, one financial spokesman said, "the arcane change was making it more difficult to detect identity thieves who steal names and Social Security numbers from the deceased."
You mean, lack of access is making it easier to be an identity thief?
But the "lawmakers" (and I use the term loosely here) involved could really give a hoot. Said Texas Representative Sam Johnson, "The decades-old practice of publishing personal death information that anyone can buy needs to end, and now."
And with a wave of his wand, all identity theft ceased to exist in the kingdom. I love fairy tales; don't you?
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I look at private information of both the dead and the living everyday, and not once have I had the desire to steal anyone's identity. And you know what? I've never met a single genealogist/identity thief.
People of character do not commit crimes. People who lack in character will find a way to commit a crime, no matter how difficult you try to make it.
So I guess my point here is this: if genealogists are not the only industry using the DMI, perhaps we should band together with these other folks and put pressure on the "lawmakers" who have removed this resource and are trying to restrict access even further?
Oh, and for what it's worth, you can apparently still get online access to the DMI directly from the Social Security Administration. If any of you have the $$$ necessary for a subscription, could you please give me a call?
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Copyright © by Elizabeth O'NealPrint this post