The University Record, September 24, 1996

Message prompts responses on SSN privacy

By Jared Blank 

Many e-mail users on campus have noted receiving e-mail about personal information allegedly being disseminated by the Lexis-Nexis P-TRAK database.

P-TRAK is a computer database controlled by Lexis-Nexis, a company that sells access to its library of periodicals and legal documents. The P-TRAK database provides information to the legal community to assist in the location of litigants, witnesses, shareholders, debtors, heirs and beneficiaries.

The anonymous electronic message incorrectly suggests that P-TRAK contains Social Security numbers, credit histories and other information that could be used to commit credit card fraud.

Lexis-Nexis states that only names, addresses, telephone numbers and, possibly, birthdates are kept in their records. The information is provided by Trans Union, a major national credit agency.

Lexis-Nexis ceased displaying Social Security numbers in the P-TRAK database as of June 11, 1996, 11 days after P-TRAK was introduced, because of privacy concerns. In a press release, the company states that they are "aware of the sensitivities regarding the potential misuse of information. Business competitors of Lexis-Nexis have for some time made Social Security numbers available to users of their services . . . Despite this wide availability of Social Security numbers in the marketplace, Lexis-Nexis discontinued [their] display."

"By discontinuing the display of Social Security numbers in P-TRAK and only providing information that is already available to the public from other sources, Lexis-Nexis believes it has responsibly met the concerns of the public."

Those who wish to have their names removed from the database may fill out a form on the company's World Wide Web page, or call 1-800-543-6862.