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Social Security Suspends Its Internet Service Agency’s Chief Plans To Conduct Forums With Privacy And Computer Security Experts

Accused of putting Americans’ privacy at risk, the Social Security Administration on Wednesday suspended an Internet service that gave taxpayers access to their earnings and benefits records.

“The Internet is a new world and we want to make sure we can provide the highest level of security for our beneficiaries and our workers,” acting Social Security Commissioner John J. Callahan said.

He said the online service will be disabled for at least 60 days while he holds a series of forums across the country with privacy and computer security experts and the public about how to ease fears.

Advice also will be sought from banks that provide electronic financial services.

“We want to get the benefit of their experience,” Callahan said.

Callahan said requests from lawmakers earlier this week, questions raised by computer experts interviewed in news reports and phone calls from the public all convinced him to pull the service.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Sens. William Roth, R-Del., Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., and John Chafee, R-R.I., had sent a letter to the agency Tuesday saying the online service “may not afford sufficient protections against violations of individual privacy.”

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