2007 Texas Attorney General Opinions (Greg Abbott)

AG Rules of Confidentiality of Social Security Numbers (which are
routinely contained in divorce decrees and other court records)

Opinion No.  GA-0519

Re:  Release and redaction of social security numbers under the Public Information
Act, section 552.147 of the Government Code (RQ-0418-GA)

Summary: The social security number ("SSN") of a living person is confidential and
subject to mandatory exception from required disclosure under section 552.147(a)
of the Public Information Act ("PIA"). Distributing confidential information under the
PIA is a criminal offense. Section 552.147(b) of the PIA provides an administrative
procedure by which a governmental body may redact confidential SSNs from public
information without first obtaining an attorney general decision.

The confidentiality of SSNs of living persons under 552.147 of the PIA applies to all
county clerk records subject to the PIA.

Section 552.147 of the PIA does not authorize a county clerk to redact SSNs from
original documents maintained in the clerk's records.

When a county clerk redacts a SSN from a copy of a document maintained by the
clerk's office, the clerk may label the copy as a "certified copy," but such
certification must reflect that SSNs have been redacted.

Prior to posting a record on the Internet, the clerk must redact the SSNs of living
persons from any record subject to the PIA.

For purposes of section 552.147 of the PIA, a governmental body may presume
that a requested SSN belongs to a living person unless the facts before the
governmental body show otherwise.

UPDATE: The Houston Chronicle reports that the Texas Legislature, which is currently in session, has
passed a bill to address the implications of the Attorney General's ruling regarding redaction of Social
Security Numbers from Public Records. According to the news report, the bill, passed by both chambers,
still provides for redaction by written request.
AG News Items
April 1, 2007 - The San Antonio Express-News
reports that former Attorney General Dan Morales
is being released from a federal halfway house in
San Antonio. Morales was convicted in 2003 for
mail fraud and giving false information on income
tax returns, and received a four-year sentence