State representatives voted Wednesday to automatically give residents of the state’s largest county additional protection from identity theft.
Everyone else is going to have to remember to ask.
The House gave preliminary approval to legislation that requires county recorders to ensure that people accessing public documents on the Internet cannot get Social Security numbers.
The Senate has already approved the measure.
Social Security numbers still would be available to those who actually go to county offices, as required by law. But SB1169 would prevent people from logging in from halfway around the world and farming thousands of Social Security numbers in order to steal identities.
The House vote occurred only after representatives altered the measure to have the mandate apply solely to Maricopa County, where officials already have purchased the software and are doing that redaction. Elsewhere, the move was made optional after Sen. Barbara Leff, R-Paradise Valley, said some recorders complained about the cost.
Recorders in Arizona’s other 14 counties still would have to honor individual requests by people to strip the numbers from Web-based documents.
The legislation actually is an outgrowth of a bill passed last year that made it illegal for new documents filed with county recorders to have certain information on the versions that are digitized and made available on the Internet. That includes not only Social Security numbers but also credit card numbers, bank accounts and retirement accounts.
None of that, however, took care of the documents already available. So this legislation is retroactive, dealing with documents recorded since the beginning of 1986.
There are a lot of them: Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell figures she has about 83 million images.
Purcell already had embarked on redacting the information, something she figures will cost about $4.5 million. She is paying for it with a $4-per-document surcharge state lawmakers allow all recorders to assess.
But Pima County Recorder Ann Rodriguez said her county attorney said that surcharge is to modernize old documents, putting them into computers. Rodriguez said she can’t use the money to re-do records that already are computerized, something she figures would cost $1.9 million.
Rep. Tom Prezelski, D-Tucson, attempted to tack an amendment onto the bill to provide $4.7 million for Pima and the other 13 counties to make the changes.
“We have to protect every Arizonan, not just the Arizonans who live in Maricopa County,” he said. He also argued that Maricopa is large enough that it can cover its own costs.
But Rep. John Nelson, R-Litchfield Park, said putting money into the legislation would endanger its political future.