School is generally thought to be one of the safest places a child can be, but a recent law has many parents in Maine feeling apprehensive about how well their children are protected from identity theft.
New laws in Maine will prompt parents to disclose their children's Social Security numbers to education officials during years K-12 so that the school can "track students' progress in college and through the workforce," according to NBC affiliate WLBZ2. After tracking students' progress through college and during employment, school officials want to use the data to develop programs and initiatives that will teach future students how to be more successful.
But the Maine Civil Liberties Union is alerting parents that they have ultimate control over the decision to disclose their children's personal information and is encouraging them to refrain from releasing it to reduce the risk of identity theft. According to the news station, parents have the option to opt out of the plan to provide their children's Social Security numbers, but many are not aware of that choice. In recent weeks, the MCLU has lobbied for greater transparency regarding the laws, resulting in new guidelines that require schools to inform parents of the opt-out option.
"Even the most secure databases are subject to breach, and theft of Social Security numbers can lead to identity theft," MCLU Executive Director Shenna Bellows said. "A proper explanation would inform parents of privacy risks associated with Social Security numbers and the benefits of keeping our most personal information private."
Child identity theft is a growing problem that is difficult to detect and extremely damaging to the victim's credit. Currently, retailers and lenders who run credit checks on applicants do not have access to the borrower's date of birth, leaving criminals to use the personal data of newborns and children alike. Because children do not have the need to check their credit report during their youth, many do not find out their credit is ruined until they apply for their first credit card, job or student loan.
Parents are advised to avoid disclosing their child's Social Security information unless it is absolutely necessary and to ask questions about security and storage when they must provide it. Protecting a child's personal data does not only apply at school, but extends to signing them up for sports teams, community organizations and extracurriculars.