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No More Data Rape In New York

No, you don't have to give anyone your social security number. Except, perhaps the IRS and other government officials.

That's the ruling of a yet-to-be-published case out of New York (subscription required). Mark Fass of the New York Law Journal today cited the Court's ruling:

"While the privilege must give way as required by statute, regulation, or court order, in ordinary circumstances, the person who holds the social security number appears to be free to decline disclosure," Acting Supreme Justice Diane E. Lebedeff ruled in Meyerson v. Prime Realty Services, 118001/03.

Apparently, this issue has never been decided before: Judge Lebedeff noted it was a case of "nationwide first impression." She also called the practice of identity theft "data rape," expressing concern that "armed with one's SSN, an unscrupulous individual could obtain a person's welfare benefits or Social Security benefits, order new checks at a new address on that person's checking account, obtain credit cards, or even obtain the person's paycheck."

The case involves a tenant in New York who wanted to renew her lease to an apartment she had been a tenant in for many years. In order to renew, the landlord requested the tenant's SSN. The tenant refused, and promptly sued, arguing that it was a deceptive business practice to be required to provide her SSN in order to renew an existing lease for an apartment on anything other than the original terms and conditions (the landlord held no security deposit and did not previously have the tenant's SSN). **NOTE: The facts in this paragraph have been corrected from those in the original post based upon the request of the tenant's attorney, as more fully explained in his comment below.**

You'd almost have to be from New York to understand their attachment to apartments. It's hard for those of us in California who are attached at the hip to our cars.

The net effect of the ruling is that private citizens do not have to provide their SSN to other private individuals.

I just want to know whether she got the apartment.

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Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, March 03, 2005


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