The Legislature is scheduled begin its special session on the day this column appears to address the failure in the regular session to pass SB 1067, the measure to bring Idaho in line with the requirements for the United States to join the Hague Treaty on child support.
One issue raised by opponents if the legislation is a claim that the child support legislation may put the personal data of Idahoans at risk.
Representative Lynn M. Luker (R-Boise) in a guest editorial send statewide to Idaho newspapers on April 11, 2015 stated:
Implementation of the treaty would open federal databases to foreign countries. An important child support enforcement tool is the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) which includes the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH), as well as access to information from the IRS, the Social Security Administration, VA, the Department of Defense, NSA and FBI. Regarding the threat to personal information, counsel for the Congressional Research Service expressed significant concern in a report of July 15, 2013. The report states: “The expansion of access to and use of personal information contained in the FPLS, especially in the National Directory of New Hires, could potentially lead to privacy and confidentiality breaches, financial fraud, identity theft, or other crimes. There is also concern that a broader array of legitimate users of the NDNH may conceal the unauthorized use of the personal and financial data in the NDNH.”
Of note, the 2013 Congressional Research Service report cited by Rep. Luker was prepared a year before the eventual federal statute was adopted. The 2014 federal law that passed dealt with this issue (see below) and the 2014 Congressional Research Service report eliminated this concern.
But, we now know that this claim of a potential privacy breach is simply unfounded when looking at the procedure created by the federal law and implemented by the federal government agency that receives requests from foreign countries to enforce child support orders in the United States.
The Idaho Freedom Foundation, an opponent of the child support measure, recently made a public records request to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The full set can be viewed here: http://idahofreedom.org/documents-dhw-releases-child-support-emails/
Included in the produced documents is a letter dated April 22, 2015 from Vicki Turetsky, the Commissioner of the Office of Child Support Enforcement (“OCSE”) for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The OCSE is the entity in the federal government that will receive requests from foreign countries under the treaty at issue to locate the parent in the United States.
Several points relevant to the privacy claims asserted by Rep. Luker are made.
First, the federal statute governing this matter is 42 U.S.C. § 659A(c)(2) which provides that the OCSE will facilitate enforcement of foreign child support orders by notifying “foreign reciprocating countries of the State of residence of individuals sought for support enforcement purposes, on the basis of information provided by the Federal Parent Locator Service.” Note that the only requirement is to notify the foreign country of where the parent obligated to pay child support lives, not to turn over the U.S. federal child support database to the foreign country.
Second, OCSE, once it receives a valid request, will then submit a request electronically to the federal child support databases to locate which State the non-paying parent lives in.
Third, the only information provided to the foreign country is “[i]f the [federal database] locates the noncustodial parent, OCSE will return only the state of residence to the Central Authority of the requesting Treaty country. No other personal identifying information will be provided (underlining emphasis added).”
The key point is that foreign countries don’t get access to the federal child support database itself. They make a request to OCSE to locate the parent in the United States. OCSE then attempts to locate the absent parent in the United States. If OCSE is successful, they tell the foreign country which State the parent resides in and the foreign entity then contacts the State to enforce the child support order.
The bottom line: There is no potential for a breach of data privacy if Idaho joins in implementing the Hague convention on child support if the Idaho Legislature chooses to do so.