Privacy group gets CIA chief’s personal data for 26 dollars

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Agence France Presse

WASHINGTON D.C. — A privacy group, seeking to highlight the lack of protection of sensitive personal data, says it bought the social security number of CIA chief George Tenet and other top US officials for 26 dollars.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights said it obtained on the Internet the social security numbers of Tenet as well as those of Attorney General John Ashcroft and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

The group said it was unable to obtain the data for President George W. Bush because he is too well-known.

The numbers, available from various websites at prices ranging from 26 to 40 dollars each, can be used to obtain other financial information, and in some cases, could be used to open up bank or credit accounts, says group spokesman Jerry Flanagan.

“The effect can range from annoying phone calls from marketers to the risk of identity theft, which is the fastest growing form of fraud,” he said.

Additionally, he said, “Once a social security number is out there, (companies) can tap into medical databases and public records and aggregate dossier files on individuals.”

The California-based advocacy group said it obtained the information to show the need for further government protection of privacy as a current measure is set to expire January 1.

Jamie Court, the group’s executive director, said Bush appeared to be backing away from his pledge to support strong privacy laws.

President Bush will have to choose between the commercial freedoms of corporations and the privacy rights of Americans,” said Court.

“The president should realize his campaign pledges to protect Americans’ privacy are needed more than ever when I can buy the social security number of CIA director George Tenet on the Internet for as little as 26 dollars.”

Court said a measure being considered by Congress to replace the expiring fair credit law would prevent states from allowing consumers to block the exchange of personal financial information. One such law was set to go into effect in California.

“Bush should live up to his campaign promises to protect Americans’ privacy and oppose the efforts by banks and insurers to have the federal government override stronger state laws,” said Court.

“While Bush has the Secret Service to protect him, the 750,000 American victims of identity theft each year are counting on the president to identify more with their needs than the corporations’.”

Consumer Watchdog
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