On Thursday, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called for the Supreme Court to end its practice of publishing people's Social Security numbers in the public court record system.
In his letter to Chief Justice John Roberts, Wyden demanded to know why the high court wasn't fully redacting sensitive personal information in court filings.
"Each year, federal courts make available to the public court filings containing tens of thousands of Americans' personal information, such as their Social Security Numbers (SSNs) and dates of birth," Wyden wrote.
He added: "However, federal court rules — required by Congress — mandate that court filings be scrubbed of personal information before they are publicly available. These rules are not being followed, the courts are not enforcing them, and as a result, each year tens of thousands of Americans are exposed to needless privacy violations."
"Sen. Wyden is urging the courts to enforce their existing rules, which require the protection of sensitive personal information," Wyden spokesman Keith Chu told CyberScoop. "The courts should also update those rules, as required by the Open Courts Act, and add additional protections so that people don't risk their privacy when they access the legal system."
While writing to Chief Justice Roberts, Wyden also noted that Congress requires the court system to establish privacy standards whenever releasing court records online.
Wyden then pointed to the Federal Judicial Center's study from 2015, in which "5,437 documents out of 3.9 million court records posted in a one-month period had Social Security numbers listed" — a per-document occurrence rate of 0.0014.
"If these statistics are representative of the problem, it would mean that the courts have made available to the public roughly half a million documents containing personal data since 2015."
He then added, "If federal courts cannot address this issue, quickly, Congress will be forced to act."
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