Child Support Database

July 7, 1999

Tracking down deadbeat dads who owe child support is a worthy goal. But the latest attempts to do this raise significant privacy issues.

The Washington Post (6/27/99) reports that: "As part of a new and aggressive effort to track down parents who owe child support, the federal government has created a vast computerized data-monitoring system that includes all individuals with new jobs and the names, addresses, Social Security numbers and wages of nearly every working adult in the United States."

So what's the problem? After all, governmental agencies and businesses have always gathered information on people and families. But never have federal officials had such a complete and centralized database. Robert Gellman is a lawyer and privacy expert in Washington, D.C. He says, "What you have here is a complication of information that is much better and more current than any other data system in the U.S." He goes on to say, "All of the sudden we're on the verge of creating the Holy Grail of data collection, a central file on every American."

No one would deny that the goal of tracking down deadbeat dads is a good one. But the means by which it is being achieved is to develop a centralized database which most Americans have rigorously opposed.

The system was developed under a little-known part of the law overhauling welfare three years ago. It calls for all employers to quickly file reports on every person they hire and file quarterly reports on their wages. Although the system can keep tabs on parents who owe child support, it can also keep tabs on Americans accused of nothing.

And isn't this how much of our privacy has been lost? Worthy programs and goals are used to intrude into our lives. As government implements new programs to track down the guilty, those of us who are innocent lose more of our privacy year after year.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.