BC-VT–Internet Exposure,1st-Ld Writethru,0272

Secretary of State takes down links to records with SSNs

Eds: restores dropped word “include” in 5th graf.

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – The Vermont Secretary of State’s office has taken down Internet links to business files that contain the Social Security numbers of individuals, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz said Saturday.

She said officials made the decision to do that on Friday after reports surfaced that the Social Security nNumbers of some people could be found in some commercial records on the Web site of her office.

“Our fear was the news story would attract bad actors,” said Markowitz. “We’ve de-coupled them for the weekend.”

Next week Markowitz said her office would discuss with the Legislature and the Attorney General’s office what the next step should be.

The Secretary of State’s corporations division maintains tens of thousands of records of commercial borrowing by Vermonters. Markowitz said some organizations include the numbers on forms they supply themselves.

“There is no data base on our system that has Social Security numbers,” she said. “It’s not a database, it’s a copy of what’s been filed with the intention that it be public.”

She said that six years ago her office discovered the Social Security numbers on some documents and started removing them from new filings. The filings are good for 10 years and so only the older files contain the numbers, which she said were difficult to find.

Markowitz said that during the work week the loss of public access to the files would make it harder for some businesses to do the research they need to do.

“We are going to figure out next week what we need to do with this site,” she said.

AP-ES-01-20-07 1548EST