Some Security

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Score one for privacy. Bowing to pressure from Congress, the Social Security Administration will disable the portion of its website giving access to individual Social Security records. Instead, acting commissioner John Callahan said, the agency will for the next two months conduct a series of public forums across the country to evaluate how to make the system more secure. Making the records available online prompted a howl of protests from critics, who charged that anyone armed with another person's Social Security number, mother's maiden name and state where they were born could access records containing job history, salary and other information. Still, the fuss may contain more than a bit of unnecessary cyber-hysteria. Under the previous system, the agency would mail the records to anyone providing the same information along with a signature. Since the SSA has no way of checking the accuracy of the signatures, the old system really isn't any more secure than the web site. It just takes longer.