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H.R. 220 - The Freedom and Privacy Restoration Act of 1999

 

    

I.   Introduction

II.  Congress Must Act Now to Limit the Abuse of Privacy Inherently Resulting from Institution of the Social Security System

III.  H.R. 220 Contains Several Legislative Steps to Reverse Privacy Abuse

IV. Conclusion



I.  Introduction

Economics professor Charlotte Twight, in her article “Watching You: Systematic Federal Surveillance of Ordinary Americans,” warns that George Orwell's 1984 is "no longer fiction."

According to Professor Twight, our nation's central government "is recording each citizen's employment, income, childhood and subsequent educational experiences, medical history (including doctor's subjective impressions), financial transactions, ancestry, living conditions, rent or mortgage payment, household expenses, roommates and their characteristics, in-home telephone service, automobile ownership, household heating and sewage systems, number of stillbirths, language….” This information that is linked with a person's Social Security number, provides the federal government an amazingly detailed portrait of a person. 

The U.S. Congress, when creating the Social Security system, did not intend to create a national identifier or tracking mechanism.  The Social Security number, however, did become a national identifier by an executive order issued by President Franklin Roosevelt.  In the 1960s, the federal government increased the use of the Social Security number as a uniform identifier when it replaced the traditional military serial number with the Social Security number. 

In response to concerns about the misuse of the Social Security number, Congress passed the Privacy Act of 1974.  However, the language of the act allowed Congress to require the use of the Social Security number at will. In fact, just two years after the passage of the Privacy Act of 1974, Congress explicitly allowed state governments to use the Social Security number as an identifier for tax collection, motor vehicle registration and drivers' license identification.

The misuse of the Social Security number increased with the passage of the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970.  The act required banking institutions to collect Social Security numbers from their customers.   Financial institutions quickly adopted the Social Security number as their means to identify their customers.   The federal government continued the misuse of the Social Security number by compelling the disclosure and use of the Social Security number in labor, medical, and education databases.  Of course, each of these compulsory misuses of the Social Security number mandated by the federal government are justified as a means to prevent crime (even though the Constitution of the United States of America reserves this role to state governments) and as a means to lower transaction costs of government agencies, even though the result is a loss of liberty and privacy. 

II.  Congress Must Act Now to Limit the Abuse of Privacy Inherently Resulting from Institution of the Social Security System

The Freedom and Privacy Restoration Act, H.R. 220, introduced by Representative Ron Paul, would limit the use of the Social Security number to the Social Security Administration’s purposes only.  Certain inefficiencies will result in barring all other government agencies from using the Social Security number. However, the framers of the Constitution of the United States of America regarded government's primary role to be the preservation of liberty; not the efficient workings of government.

Government has not only facilitated, but has also compelled the creation of this effective tool for privacy invasion (the Social Security number). Posed with the question as to whether to correct what government has done or use the culmination of negative effects of all the prior interventions to, yet again, intervene further to deprive individuals of liberty and private dealings, the answer is quite clear -- two wrongs don't make a right.

  H.R. 220 greatly limits governmental use of the Social Security number by precluding agencies from using the social security number for any purpose other than administration of the Social Security system.

III.  H.R.  220 Contains Several Legislative Steps to Reverse Privacy Abuse

A. Bill Section 1 – Title Section

This section simply titles the bill the "Freedom and Privacy Restoration Act of 1999."

B. Bill Section 2 – Governmental Use Restrictions

This section amends title II (Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance) of the Social Security Act and the Internal Revenue Code to prohibit any federal, state, or local government agency or instrumentality from using a social security account number or any derivative as the means of identifying any individual, except for specified social security and tax purposes.

C. Bill Section 3 – Privacy Act Conformation

This section amends the Privacy Act of 1974 to prohibit any federal, state, or local government agency or instrumentality from requesting an individual to disclose his social security account number on either a mandatory or a voluntary basis.

D. Bill Section 4 – Governmental Cross-Referencing Prohibition

Section 4 prohibits any two federal agencies or instrumentalities from implementing the same identifying number with respect to any individual, except as authorized under this act.

E. Bill Section 5 – Governmental Identifier Prohibitions

This section prohibits a federal agency from: (1) establishing or mandating a uniform standard for identification of an individual that is required to be used by any other federal agency, a state agency, or a private person for any purpose other than the purpose of conducting the authorized activities of the federal agency establishing or mandating the standard; or (2) conditioning receipt of any federal grant or contract or other federal funding on the adoption, by a state, a state agency, or a political subdivision of a state, of a uniform standard for identification of an individual.

Lastly, it prohibits a federal agency from establishing or mandating a uniform standard for identification of an individual that is required to be used within the agency, or by any other federal agency, a state agency, or a private person, for the purpose of: (1) investigating, monitoring, overseeing, or otherwise regulating a transaction to which the federal government is not a party; or (2) administrative simplification.

F. Bill Section 6 – Effective Date

This section makes the provisions of the bill effective on January 1, 2001.

IV.  Conclusion

If we hope to sustain a system protective of liberty, certain constitutional protections limiting the federal government's ability to engage in programs which "for efficiency's sake" demand a careful governmental tracking of individuals must not be tolerated.  In the first instance, governmental redistributive programs whose sole purpose is to take property from one person and give it to another person were neither contemplated by the framers nor deemed constitutional by the early U.S. Supreme Court.  Subsequent interventions into private matters for the purpose of the making efficient these illegitimate redistributive programs move us further down the road to tyranny.  Even former U.S. president Harry S. Truman, no champion of liberty himself, said, "When you have efficient government, you have a dictatorship."     


 



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© 2001  The Liberty Committee