Voter SS numbers exposed

October 26, 2006

By Kyle Kondik, T-R Staff Writer

Potentially hundreds or thousands of Social Security numbers of Tuscarawas County voters are available to subscribers served by the Internet database service LexisNexis.

LexisNexis serves legal, business, academic and government customers in 100 countries and contains 5 billion documents from 32,000 sources, according to its Web site.

A former Tuscarawas County resident and LexisNexis subscriber alerted The Times-Reporter after she discovered voters. Social Security numbers while searching the site.

A staffer in the Washington bureau of Copley News Service, which subscribes to LexisNexis, accessed the database Wednesday, confirming that Social Security numbers of some, but not all, Tuscarawas County voters could be obtained.

The T-R obtained the numbers of several prominent Tuscarawas County citizens and public officials from the LexisNexis database.

The former county resident, who did not wish to be identified, said she believes someone should be held accountable. She said some voters. Social Security numbers, including those for her own family members, were purged from the database after she alerted LexisNexis more than a week ago, but many others remain accessible.

It was not immediately clear how LexisNexis, which has offices in Ohio, obtained the Tuscarawas County database, which in a number of cases listed thinly disguised Social Security numbers as identification numbers prior to the purge a week ago. Now, many Social Security numbers aren't disguised at all.

At least some Social Security numbers of voters in Warren County also are available.

The LexisNexis database didn.t come from Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell's office, spokesman James Lee said Wednesday. He said local boards of elections may be the source of such information.

Tuscarawas County Board of Elections Director Charles Miller said, however, the voter database goes only to the Ohio Secretary of State's office and is not sold or given to third parties. He said candidates requesting a list of registered voters don't get Social Security numbers or voter identification numbers.

Doug Wills, a Tuscarawas County Board of Elections member, said LexisNexis ought to reveal the source of the information.

"This matter concerns me greatly," he said.

Blackwell, Ohio's Republican candidate for governor, came under fire earlier this year after his office published 1.2 million Social Security numbers connected with business filings on the agency's Web site. A class action lawsuit was filed and most of the numbers ultimately were removed. Nevertheless, The Times-Reporter found at least one Social Security number on the secretary.s Web site Wednesday.

In April, Blackwell's office sent out 20 computer discs containing 5.7 million registered voters. names and Social Security numbers, but immediately recalled them. Blackwell has maintained the information on those discs was not compromised.

David Kurt, a spokesman for LexisNexis, said he was not specifically familiar with the situation brought to his attention Wednesday, but did say that all the information on the site is only available to a select, responsible few.

"We don't provide personal identifying information to just anyone coming off the streets," he said.

Kurt was unsure of the exact number of people and businesses that could access the records through LexisNexis. For instance, a LexisNexis academic account did not provide access to the voter records.

LexisNexis has several tiers of access, Kurt said.

Tuscarawas County Prosecutor Amanda Spies said her office is looking into the situation.

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