Recent Amendments to the New York Social Security Number Protection Law


On August 14, 2012, the State of New York amended its Social Security Number Protection Law to further protect individuals' social security numbers from unauthorized disclosure. The Social Security Number Protection Law was enacted in 2008 to protect individuals from identity theft. Under the law, a "social security account number" is defined as the number issued by the federal social security administration, and any number derived therefrom, such as the last four digits. Notably, if a social security number is collected, kept in electronic form and properly encrypted, then it is not a "social security account number" within the meaning of the legislation, and the law is not applicable. A goal of the law is to drive the adoption of good information security practices.

The law protects individuals' social security account numbers by prohibiting others, including employers, from disclosing an individual's unencrypted social security number to the general public; printing the social security number on any card or tag required for the individual to access products, services or benefits; requiring an individual to transmit their social security account number over the internet; or printing a social security number on materials that are mailed to the individual, unless required to do so by law. In addition, where any party maintains the social security number of an individual, that party must implement safeguards to prevent unauthorized access to such information, and must take steps to preserve the confidentiality of the social security account number. There is no liability, however, for companies or individuals that disclose another individual's social security number if they show that the violation was unintentional and resulted from a "bona fide error made notwithstanding the maintenance of procedures reasonably adopted to avoid such error." There is no private cause of action under this law, and only the state Attorney General can enforce its provisions. This last point is an important issue in the ongoing privacy law discussion in the United States, as many companies have concerns regarding new class action claims which are being crafted.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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