[Congressional Bills 106th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
[H.R. 4611 Introduced in House (IH)]







106th CONGRESS
  2d Session
                                H. R. 4611

   To strengthen the authority of the Federal Government to protect 
individuals from certain acts and practices in the sale and purchase of 
 Social Security numbers and Social Security account numbers, and for 
                            other purposes.


_______________________________________________________________________


                    IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

                              June 8, 2000

  Mr. Markey introduced the following bill; which was referred to the 
  Committee on Commerce, and in addition to the Committee on Ways and 
 Means, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in 
   each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the 
                jurisdiction of the committee concerned

_______________________________________________________________________

                                 A BILL


 
   To strengthen the authority of the Federal Government to protect 
individuals from certain acts and practices in the sale and purchase of 
 Social Security numbers and Social Security account numbers, and for 
                            other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Social Security Number Protection 
Act of 2000''.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

    The Congress makes the following findings:
            (1) The inappropriate sale or purchase of Social Security 
        numbers is a significant factor in a growing range of illegal 
        activities, including fraud, identity theft, and, in some 
        cases, stalking and other violent crimes.
            (2) While financial institutions, health care providers, 
        and other entities have often used Social Security numbers to 
        confirm the identity of an individual, the sale or purchase of 
        these numbers often facilitates the commission of criminal 
        activities, and also can result in serious invasions of 
        individual privacy.
            (3) The Federal Government requires virtually every 
        individual in the United States to obtain and maintain a Social 
        Security number in order to pay taxes, to qualify for Social 
        Security benefits, or to seek employment. An unintended 
        consequence of these requirements is that Social Security 
        numbers have become tools that can be used to facilitate crime, 
        fraud, and invasions of the privacy of the individuals to whom 
        the numbers are assigned. Because the Federal Government 
        created and maintains this system, and because the Federal 
        Government does not permit persons to exempt themselves from 
        those requirements, it is appropriate for the Government to 
        take steps to stem the abuse of this system.
            (4) A Social Security number is simply a sequence of 
        numbers. In no meaningful sense can the number itself impart 
        knowledge or ideas. Persons do not sell or transfer such 
        numbers in order to convey any particularized message, nor to 
        express to the purchaser any ideas, knowledge, or thoughts.
            (5) A Social Security number does not contain, reflect, or 
        convey any publicly significant information or concern any 
        public issue. The sale of such numbers in no way facilitates 
        uninhibited, robust and wide-open public debate; and 
        restrictions on such sale would not affect public debate.
            (6) No one should seek to profit from the sale of Social 
        Security numbers in circumstances that create a substantial 
        risk of physical, emotional, or financial harm to the 
        individuals to whom those numbers are assigned.
            (7) Consequently, Congress should enact legislation that 
        will offer individuals assigned such numbers necessary 
        protection from the sale and purchase of Social Security 
        numbers in circumstances that might facilitate unlawful conduct 
        or that might otherwise likely result in unfair and deceptive 
        practices.

SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS.

    In this Act:
            (1) Commission.--The term ``Commission'' means the Federal 
        Trade Commission.
            (2) Person.--The term ``person'' means any individual, 
        partnership, corporation, trust, estate, cooperative, 
        association, or any other entity.
            (3) Sale.--The term ``sale'' means obtaining, directly or 
        indirectly, anything of value in exchange for a Social Security 
        number or Social Security account number. Such term does not 
        include the submission of such numbers as part of the process 
        for applying for any type of Government benefit or programs 
        (such as grant or loan applications or welfare or other public 
        assistance programs). Such term also does not include transfers 
        of such numbers as part of a data matching program under the 
        Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act.
            (4) Purchase.--The term ``purchase'' means providing 
        directly or indirectly, anything of value in exchange for a 
        Social Security number or Social Security account number. Such 
        term does not include the submission of such numbers as part of 
        the process for applying for any type of Government benefit or 
        programs (such as grant or loan applications or welfare or 
        other public assistance programs). Such term also does not 
        include transfers of such numbers as part of a data matching 
        program under the Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act.
            (5) Social security number; social security account 
        number.--The terms ``Social Security number'' and ``Social 
        Security account number'' have the meaning given those terms in 
        section 208 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 408).
            (6) State.--The term ``State'' means any State of the 
        United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the 
        Northern Mariana Islands, the United States Virgin Islands, 
        Guam, American Samoa, and any territory or possession of the 
        United States.

SEC. 4. REGULATION OF THE SALE AND PURCHASE OF SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS 
              AND SOCIAL SECURITY ACCOUNT NUMBERS.

    (a) Prohibition.--It shall be unlawful for any person to sell or 
purchase a Social Security number or Social Security account number in 
a manner that violates a regulation promulgated by the Commission under 
subsection (b) of this section.
    (b) Regulations.--
            (1) Restrictions authorized.--The Commission, after 
        consultation with the Commissioner of Social Security, the 
        Department of Justice, and other agencies as the Commission 
        deems appropriate, shall promulgate regulations restricting the 
        sale and purchase of Social Security numbers and Social 
        Security account numbers and any unfair or deceptive acts or 
        practices in connection with the sale and purchase of Social 
        Security numbers and Social Security account numbers.
            (2) Limitations on restrictions.--In promulgating such 
        regulations, the Commission shall impose restrictions and 
        conditions on the sale and purchase of Social Security numbers 
        and Social Security account numbers that are no broader than 
        necessary--
                    (A) to provide reasonable assurance that Social 
                Security numbers and Social Security account numbers 
                will not be used to commit or facilitate fraud, 
                deception, or crime; and
                    (B) to prevent an undue risk of bodily, emotional, 
                or financial harm to individuals.
        For purposes of subparagraph (B), the Commission shall consider 
        the nature, likelihood and severity of the anticipated harm; 
        the nature, likelihood and extent of any benefits that could be 
        realized from the sale or purchase of the numbers; and any 
        other relevant factors.
            (3) Exceptions.--The regulations promulgated pursuant to 
        paragraph (1) shall include exceptions which permit the sale 
        and purchase of Social Security numbers and Social Security 
        account numbers--
                    (A) to the extent necessary for law enforcement or 
                national security purposes;
                    (B) to the extent necessary for public health 
                purposes;
                    (C) to the extent necessary in emergency situations 
                to protect the health or safety of 1 or more 
                individuals;
                    (D) to the extent necessary for research conducted 
                for the purpose of advancing public knowledge, on the 
                condition that the researcher provides adequate 
                assurances that--
                            (i) the Social Security numbers or Social 
                        Security account numbers will not be used to 
                        harass, target, or publicly reveal information 
                        concerning any identifiable individuals;
                            (ii) information about identifiable 
                        individuals obtained from the research will not 
                        to be used to make decisions that directly 
                        affect the rights, benefits, or privileges of 
                        specific individuals; and
                            (iii) the researcher has in place 
                        appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy 
                        and confidentiality of any information about 
                        identifiable individuals;
                    (E) to the extent consistent with an individual's 
                voluntary and affirmative written consent to the sale 
                or purchase of a Social Security number or Social 
                Security account number that has been assigned to that 
                individual; and
                    (F) under other appropriate circumstances as the 
                Commission may determine and as are consistent with the 
                findings in section 2 and the principles in paragraph 
                (2).
    (c) Rulemaking.--
            (1) Deadline for action.--Not later than 1 year after the 
        date of enactment of this Act, the Commission shall promulgate 
        the regulations under subsection (b) of this section, in 
        accordance with section 553 of title 5, United States Code.
            (2) Effective dates.--Subsection (a), the regulations 
        promulgated under subsection (b), and section 5 shall take 
        effect 30 days after the date on which the final regulations 
        issued under this section are published in the Federal 
        Register.
    (d) Enforcement.--Any violation of a regulation promulgated under 
subsection (b) of this section shall be treated as a violation of a 
regulation under section 18(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Trade Commission 
Act (15 U.S.C. 57a(a)(1)(B)) regarding unfair or deceptive acts or 
practices.
    (e) Administration and Applicability of Act.--
            (1) The commission.--The Commission shall prevent any 
        person from violating this section, and any regulation 
        promulgated thereunder, in the same manner, by the same means, 
        and with the same jurisdiction, powers, and duties as though 
        all applicable terms and provisions of the Federal Trade 
        Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 41 et seq.) were incorporated into 
        and made a part of this Act. Any person who violates such 
        regulation shall be subject to the penalties and entitled to 
        the privileges and immunities provided in the Federal Trade 
        Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 41 et seq.) as though all applicable 
        terms and provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 
        U.S.C. 41 et seq.) were incorporated into and made a part of 
        this Act. Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed to 
        limit the authority of the Commission under any other provision 
        of law.
            (2) Actions by states.--
                    (A) Civil actions.--In any case in which the 
                attorney general of a State has reason to believe that 
                an interest of the residents of that State has been or 
                is threatened or adversely affected by an act or 
                practice that violates any regulation of the Commission 
                promulgated under subsection (b), the State, as parens 
                patriae, may bring a civil action on behalf of the 
                residents of the State in a district court of the 
                United States of appropriate jurisdiction, to--
                            (i) enjoin that act or practice;
                            (ii) enforce compliance with the 
                        regulation;
                            (iii) obtain damages, restitution, or other 
                        compensation on behalf of residents of the 
                        State; or
                            (iv) obtain such other legal and equitable 
                        relief as the district court may consider to be 
                        appropriate.
                Before filing an action under this subsection, the 
                attorney general of the State involved shall provide to 
                the Commission and to the Attorney General a written 
                notice of that action and a copy of the complaint for 
                that action. If the State attorney general determines 
                that it is not feasible to provide the notice described 
                in this subparagraph before the filing of the action, 
                the State attorney general shall provide the written 
                notice and the copy of the complaint to the Commission 
                and to the Attorney General as soon after the filing of 
                the complaint as practicable.
                    (B) Commission and attorney general authority.--On 
                receiving notice under subparagraph (A), the Commission 
                and the Attorney General each shall have the right--
                            (i) to move to stay the action, pending the 
                        final disposition of a pending Federal matter 
                        as described in subparagraph (C);
                            (ii) to intervene in an action under clause 
                        (i);
                            (iii) upon so intervening, to be heard on 
                        all matters arising therein; and
                            (iv) to file petitions for appeal.
                    (C) Pending criminal proceedings.--If the Attorney 
                General has instituted a criminal proceeding or the 
                Federal Trade Commission has instituted a civil action 
                for a violation of this Act or any regulations 
                thereunder, no State may, during the pendency of such 
                proceeding or action, bring an action under this 
                section against any defendant named in the criminal 
                proceeding or civil action for any violation of this 
                section that is alleged in that proceeding or action.
                    (D) Rule of construction.--For purposes of bringing 
                any civil action under subparagraph (A), nothing in 
                this Act shall be construed to prevent an attorney 
                general of a State from exercising the powers conferred 
                on the attorney general by the laws of that State to 
                conduct investigations, administer oaths and 
                affirmations, or compel the attendance of witnesses or 
                the production of documentary and other evidence.
                    (E) Venue; service of process.--Any action brought 
                under this section may be brought in any district court 
                of the United States that meets applicable requirements 
                relating to venue under section 1391 of title 28, 
                United States Code. In an action brought under this 
                section, process may be served in any district in which 
                the defendant is an inhabitant or may be found.

SEC. 5. CRIMINAL SANCTIONS.

    Section 208 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 408) is amended--
            (1) in subsection (a)(8), by striking ``or'' and ``, or 
        knowingly sells or purchases'' after ``the disclosure of''; and
            (2) in subsection (c)--
                    (A) by numbering the paragraph therein as (1);
                    (B) by inserting thereafter a new paragraph (2) as 
                follows:
    ``(2) For purposes of subsection (a)(8) of this section, the term 
`sells' means obtains, directly or indirectly, anything of value in 
exchange for a Social Security number or Social Security account 
number. Such term does not include the submission of such numbers as 
part of the process for applying for any type of Government benefit or 
programs (such as grant or loan applications or welfare or other public 
assistance programs). Such term also does not include transfers of such 
numbers as part of a data matching program under the Computer Matching 
and Privacy Protection Act.''; and
                    (C) by inserting thereafter a new paragraph (3) as 
                follows:
    ``(3) For purposes of subsection (a)(8) of this section, the term 
`purchases' means provides, directly or indirectly, anything of value 
in exchange for a Social Security number or Social Security account 
number. Such term does not include the submission of such numbers as 
part of the process for applying for any type of Government benefit or 
programs (such as grant or loan applications or welfare or other public 
assistance programs). Such term also does not include transfers of such 
numbers as part of a data matching program under the Computer Matching 
and Privacy Protection Act.''.
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