FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Eric Garrison

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 89-76

 

Supervisor, Unclaimed Property Division, State of Connecticut Office of the Treasurer

 

Respondent September 13, 1989

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 6, 1989, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.

 

After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:

 

1. The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. By letter dated February 14, 1989, the complainant requested access to hard bound "holder reports," which contain information helping to locate people from the respondent's unclaimed property division. Specifically, the complainant sought access to the social security numbers contained therein.

 

3. By letter dated February 15, 1989, the respondent denied the complainant access to those portions of the holder reports containing social security numbers only.

 

4. By letter dated February 21, 1989 and filed with the Commission on March 2, 1989, the complainant appealed this denial.

 

5. It is found that the complainant is in the business of locating individuals who unknowingly have assets being held by the respondent, and providing them with this knowledge for a fee.

 

6. The respondent claims social security numbers are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(10) and 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 89-76 Page Two

 

7. It is found that the social security numbers requested pursuant to paragraph 2, above, do not in and of themselves constitute records, tax returns, reports and statements exempted by federal law or state statutes or communications privileged by the attorney-client relationship.

 

8. It is concluded, therefore, that these social security numbers are not exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(10), G.S.

 

9. It is found that social security numbers are used by both the public and private sector for a wide range of personal identification purposes including but not limited to use of this number for state and federal taxpayer identification.

 

10. It is found that disclosure of social security numbers would allow persons with knowledge of such numbers to access a wealth of data, including personal, financial, and tax data concerning the individual assigned that number.

 

11. It is further found that portions of that data referred to in paragraph 10, above, if disclosed over the objection of the subject, would lead to an invasion of personal privacy under the circumstances of this case.

 

12. The Commission notes that in the past it has consistently declined to order disclosure of social security numbers contained in personnel, medical or similar files pursuant to 1-19(b)(2) G.S. over the objections of the file subjects, as such disclosure would constitute an invasion of personal privacy.

 

13. Although it is found that the social security numbers requested pursuant to paragraph 2, above, are not contained in personnel, medical or similar files as anticipated by 1-19(b)(2), G.S., under the discreet circumstances presented, the Commission, as a matter of discretion declines to order disclosure of such social security numbers because it would lead to an invasion of the personal privacy of those individuals to whom the numbers belong and who lack the ability to object to disclosure in this case.

 

The following order of the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:

 

1. The complaint is hereby dismissed.

 

2. The Commission notes that the complainant's purposes can be served without disclosure of social security numbers to third parties in the following way. The Social Security

 

Docket #FIC 89-76 Page 3

 

Administration ("SSA") may forward letters to persons whose whereabouts are unknown by a sender where monetary or other valuable considerations are involved and where one may assume the "missing" person is unaware of the situation. At the complainant's expense, the respondent could forward the information compiled by the complainant to the SSA along with the "missing" person's social security number. Once contacted, an individual may choose whether to contact the complainant. Although this Commission lacks authority to enter an order to this effect, the Commission strongly encourages such cooperative policies on the part of state government.

 

PURSUANT TO 4-180(c) C.G.S. THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE F.O.I.C., OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.

 

THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:

 

ERIC GARRISON

1696 King Street

Route 5

Enfield, CT 06082

 

SUPERVISOR, UNCLAIMED PROPERTY DIVISION, STATE OF CONNECTICUT, OFFICE OF THE TREASURER

c/o Jane D. Comerford, Esquire

Assistant Attorney General

MacKenzie Hall

110 Sherman Street

Hartford, CT 06105

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of September 13, 1989.

 

 

Tina C. Frappier

Acting Clerk of the Commission