NU Online News Service, Feb. 27, 5:13 p.m. – Officials in some states want to limit companies’ access to public databases that include Social Security numbers.

The Indiana Senate and House have already passed two different versions of a bill, Senate Bill 376, that would restrict the ability of state agencies to release individuals’ Social Security numbers without their written consent. Lawmakers have until March 14, when the legislative session ends, to send a final version of the bill to the governor.

The text of the Indiana bill and tracking information are available at http://www.IN.gov/serv/lsa_billinfo?year=2002&session=1&request=getBill&docno=376

The Indiana bill allows agencies to release records that include Social Security numbers if they take out the Social Security numbers.

But the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, Indianapolis, is one of the insurance industry trade groups worrying about the trend towarding limiting use of Social Security numbers. Often, use of the numbers is a lynchpin in an insurer’s ability to operate, according to Neil Alldredge, NAMIC’s state relations manager.

If the current trend toward limiting use gains momentum, some state agencies might not be able to release consumer information at all, because users now get information about matters such as driver’s licenses by entering Social Security numbers, Alldredge says.

But consumer group representatives say the government has to limit use of such a critical number.

A Social Security number should not be used for purposes other than administering Social Security, says Kevin Hennosy, chairman and founder of SpreadtheRisk.org, Kansas City, Mo.

A Social Security number “is a dangerous number to have floating around,” says Robert Hunter, a consumer advocate with the Consumer Federation of America, Washington.