The Canadian Privacy Law Blog: Developments in privacy law and writings of a Canadian privacy lawyer, containing information related to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (aka PIPEDA) and other Canadian and international laws.

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The author of this blog, David T.S. Fraser, is a Canadian privacy lawyer who practices with the firm of McInnes Cooper. He is the author of the Physicians' Privacy Manual. He has a national and international practice advising corporations and individuals on matters related to Canadian privacy laws.

For full contact information and a brief bio, please see David's profile.

Please note that I am only able to provide legal advice to clients. I am not able to provide free legal advice. Any unsolicited information sent to David Fraser cannot be considered to be solicitor-client privileged.

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The views expressed herein are solely the author's and should not be attributed to his employer or clients. Any postings on legal issues are provided as a public service, and do not constitute solicitation or provision of legal advice. The author makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained herein or linked to. Nothing herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel.

This web site is presented for informational purposes only. These materials do not constitute legal advice and do not create a solicitor-client relationship between you and David T.S. Fraser. If you are seeking specific advice related to Canadian privacy law or PIPEDA, contact the author, David T.S. Fraser.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Westlaw Agrees to Stop Selling Social Security Numbers, Schumer Urges Other Companies to Follow Suit 

Thanks to Sabrina at beSpacific (beSpacific: Westlaw Announces Restricted Access to Personal Data) for pointing me to the following press release by Senator Schurmer, who is announcing that Westlaw has agreed to limit access to social security numbers in its databases:

Westlaw Agrees to Stop Selling Social Security Numbers, Schumer Urges Other Companies to Follow Suit:


Westlaw Ends SSN Sales to Private Companies, Greatly Limits Sale to Law Enforcement, Other Public Agencies

Senator Introducing Comprehensive Privacy Legislation Soon, Westlaw Supports Provisions in Schumer ID Theft Prevention Bill

After meeting with top executives last night, Sen. Charles Schumer (NY) announced today that Westlaw would be taking major steps to close large loopholes in its data search systems which previously allowed access to millions of Social Security numbers and other personal information. Peter Warwick, the head of Westlaw, thanked Sen. Schumer for raising important questions about privacy, and he has directed his company to take decisive action to close the privacy loopholes Schumer highlighted in letters and conversations. Westlaw undertook a complete review of its systems and made significant changes in its dealings with its clients.

Schumer said, “The steps that Westlaw has taken to close privacy loopholes and protect consumers from identity theft are a model for the rest of the data broker industry. This is a victory for consumers and big loss for criminals who want to steal your Social Security number and your identity. Identity theft costs consumers and businesses an estimated $5 billion per year and I’m happy that we’re making progress reduce that financial burden on American families.”

In their meeting on Wednesday night, Westlaw informed Sen. Schumer that:

  • 85% of those who had access to Social Security numbers on Westlaw’s database do not anymore.
  • No corporate clients have access to Social Security numbers anymore.
  • Eliminated government clients’ access for full Soc. Sec. numbers, including the U.S. Senate, and are working to restrict access to non-law enforcement personnel at other government agencies.
  • Will not sign new contracts that would allow full access to Soc. Sec. numbers.
  • Individuals who still have access will be screened by Westlaw, and are working towards individualized password access for those who have been screened.

Westlaw also expressed its support for Schumer’s efforts to enact legislation addressing ID theft, including the distribution and sale of Social Security numbers except to law enforcement; support regulation of data brokering."

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