Today, the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), and the National Electronic Commerce Coordinating Council (eC3) released a white paper on policies for removing Social Security numbers and other sensitive information from public documents. With the advent of open records laws and the Internet, lapses in privacy can mean lawsuits for unintended disclosure.

The white paper, entitled Privacy, Public Access & Policymaking in State Redaction Practices is specifically written for state and local leaders coping with data security in public records.

States have been working hard to make public records available online as a part of their open records laws, said North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, the outgoing president of eC3. "However, state laws haven't always kept up with technology. Secretaries of state and other stewards of public information are addressing the need to adopt new practices that protect Social Security numbers and other personal information from identity thieves and other unscrupulous viewers while maintaining records that can be used for legitimate business purposes."

The white paper offers insights on common issues in developing redaction programs, as well as practical advice on identifying cost-effective solutions. A survey section includes details on redaction practices in 19 states. Additionally, the paper stresses the growing need for states to educate the public on the prevention of identity theft.

"In preparing this white paper, we realized that public officials can do a better job of giving citizens the advice they need to proactively protect their identity and keep personal information out of the wrong hands, especially when it comes to submitting forms to the government," said Montana Secretary of State Brad Johnson, who is a national officer for both NASS and eC3.