President and CEO
U.S. Corporate and Federal Government Markets - LexisNexis
April 13, 2005
United States Senate
Committee on the Judiciary
Securing Electronic Personal Data:
Striking a Balance Between Privacy and Commercial and Governmental Use
April 13, 2005
Kurt P. Sanford
President and CEO
U.S. Corporate and Federal Government Markets
Good morning. My name is Kurt Sanford. I am the Chief Executive Officer for Corporate
and Federal Markets at LexisNexis. I appreciate the opportunity to be here today to discuss the
important issues surrounding data security, privacy and the use of commercial data.
LexisNexis is a leading provider of authoritative legal, public records, and business
information. Today, over three million professionals--lawyers, law enforcement officials,
government agencies employees, financial institution representatives, and others--use the
LexisNexis services. Government agencies, businesses, researchers, and others rely on
information provided by LexisNexis for a variety of important uses.
The following are examples of some of the important ways in which the services of
LexisNexis are used by customers:
Preventing identity theft and fraud - Although the insidious effects of identity theft are
fairly well known, until recently we did not fully appreciate that identity theft is part of the larger
problem of identity fraud. Identity fraud, which encompasses identity theft, is the use of false
identifiers, false or fraudulent documents, or a stolen identity in the commission of a crime. It is
a component of most major crimes and is felt around the world today. As a result, both industry
and government have asked LexisNexis to develop solutions to help address this evolving
LexisNexis remains committed to providing leadership in this area. We recognize the
enormity of the problem. In 2004, 9.3 million consumers were victimized by identity fraud.
Credit card companies report $1 billion in losses each year from credit card fraud. With the use
of a LexisNexis solution called Fraud Defender, a major bank card issuer experienced a 77
percent reduction in the dollar losses due to fraud associated with identity theft and credit card
LexisNexis products are becoming increasingly necessary to combat identity fraud
associated with internet transactions where high dollar merchandise such as computers and
other electronic equipment are sold via credit card. Lower fraud costs ultimately mean lower
costs and greater efficiencies for consumers.
Locating suspects and helping make arrests - Many federal, state and local law
enforcement agencies rely on LexisNexis to help them locate criminal suspects and to identify
witnesses to a crime. LexisNexis works closely with federal, state and local law enforcement
agencies on a variety of criminal investigations. For example, the Beltway Sniper Task Force in
Washington, D.C., used information provided by LexisNexis to help locate one of the suspects
wanted in connection with that case. In another case, information provided by LexisNexis was
recently used to locate and apprehend an individual who threatened a District Court Judge and
his family in Louisiana.
Supporting homeland security efforts - LexisNexis worked with the Department of
Homeland Security Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) in developing the Hazardous
Materials Endorsement Screening Gateway System. This system allows TSA to perform
background checks on commercial truck drivers who wish to obtain an endorsement to transport
Preventing money laundering - LexisNexis has partnered with the American Bankers
Association to develop a tool used by banks and other financial institutions to verify the identity
of new customers to prevent money laundering and other illegal transactions used to fund
criminal and terrorist activities. This tool allows banks to meet Patriot Act and safety and
soundness regulatory requirements.
Locating and recovering missing children - Customers like the National Center for
Missing and Exploited Children rely on LexisNexis to help them locate missing and abducted
children. Since 1984, the Center has assisted law enforcement in recovering more than 85,000
children. Over the past 4 years, information provided by LexisNexis has been instrumental in a
number of the Center's successful recovery efforts.
Locating parents delinquent in child support payments - Both public and private
agencies rely on LexisNexis to locate parents who are delinquent in child support payments and
to locate and attach assets in satisfying court-ordered judgments. The Association for Children
for the Enforcement of Support (ACES), a private child support recovery organization, has had
tremendous success in locating nonpaying parents using LexisNexis.
These are just a few examples of how our information products are used to help
consumers by detecting and preventing fraud, strengthening law enforcement's ability to
apprehend criminals, protecting homeland security and assisting in locating missing and
Types of Information Maintained by LexisNexis Risk Solutions
The information maintained by LexisNexis falls into the following three general
classifications: public record information, publicly available information, and non-public
information. I briefly describe each below.
Public record information. Public record information is information originally obtained
from government records that are available to the public. Land records, court records, and
professional licensing records are examples of public record information collected and
maintained by the government for public purposes, including dissemination to the public.
Publicly available information. Publicly available information is information that is
available to the general public from non-governmental sources. Telephone directories are an
example of publicly available information.
Non-public information. Non-public information is information about an individual that is
not obtained directly from public record information or publicly available information. This
information comes from proprietary or non-public sources. Non-public data maintained by
LexisNexis consists primarily of information obtained from either motor vehicle records or credit
header data. Credit header data is the non-financial identifying information located at the top of
a credit report, such as name, current and prior address, listed telephone number, social
security number, and month and year of birth.
LexisNexis is committed to the responsible use of personal identifying information. We
have privacy policies in place to protect the consumer information in our databases. Our Chief
Privacy Officer and Privacy and Policy Review Board work together to ensure that LexisNexis
has strong privacy policies in place to help protect the information contained in our databases.
We also undertake regular third-party privacy audits to ensure adherence to our privacy policies.
LexisNexis has an established Consumer Access Program that allows consumers
to review information on them contained in the LexisNexis system. While the information
provided to consumers under this program is comprehensive, it does not include publicly
available information such as newspaper and magazine articles and telephone directories
contained in the LexisNexis system.
LexisNexis also has a consumer opt-out program that allows individuals to request
that information about themselves be suppressed from selected databases under certain
circumstances. To opt-out of LexisNexis databases, an individual must provide an
explanation of the reason or reasons for the request. Examples of reasons include:
? You are a state, local or federal law enforcement office or public official and your
position exposes you to a threat of death or serious bodily harm;
? You are a victim of identity theft; or
? Your are at risk of physical harm.
Supporting documentation is required to process the opt-out request. While this opt-out
policy applies to all databases maintained by our recently acquired Seisint business, it is limited
to the non-public information databases in the LexisNexis service. The policy does not
currently apply to public records information databases maintained by LexisNexis. We are
currently evaluating what steps we can take to better publicize our opt-out program and extend
the program to all public records databases in the LexisNexis service.
LexisNexis has long recognized the importance of protecting the information in our
databases and has multiple programs in place for verification, authorization and IT security.
Preventive and detective technologies are deployed to mitigate risk throughout the network and
system infrastructure and serve to thwart potentially malicious activities. LexisNexis also has a
multi-layer process in place to screen potential customers to ensure that only legitimate
customers have access to sensitive information contained in our systems. Our procedures
include a detailed authentication process to determine the validity of business licenses,
memberships in professional societies and other credentials. We also authenticate the
documents provided to us to ensure they have not been tampered with or forged.
Only those customers with a permissible purpose under applicable laws are granted
access to sensitive data such as driver's license information and social security numbers. In
addition, customers are required to make express representations and warranties regarding
access and use of sensitive information and we limit a customer's access to information in
LexisNexis products according to the purposes for which they seek to use the information.
Maintaining security is not a static process -- it requires continuously evaluating and
adjusting our security processes, procedures and policies. High-tech fraudsters are getting
more sophisticated in the methods they use to access sensitive information in databases. We
continuously adapt our security procedures to address the new threats we face every day from
those who seek to unlawfully access our databases. We undertake regular third-party security
audits to test the security of systems and identify any potential weaknesses.
Even with the multi-layer safeguards in place at LexisNexis, we recently discovered that
unauthorized persons primarily using IDs and passwords of legitimate customers may have
accessed personal identifying information at our recently acquired Seisint business. In February
2005, a LexisNexis integration team became aware of some billing irregularities and unusual
usage patterns with several customer accounts. At that point we contacted the U.S. Secret
Service. The Secret Service initially asked us to delay notification so they could conduct their
investigation. About a week later we publicly announced these incidents and within a week
sent out notices to approximately 30,000 individuals.
The investigation revealed that unauthorized persons, primarily using IDs and
passwords of legitimate customers, may have accessed personal-identifying information, such
as social security numbers (SSNs) and driver's license numbers (DLNs). In the majority of
instances, IDs and passwords were stolen from Seisint customers that had legally permissible
access to SSNs and DLNs for legitimate purposes, such as verifying identities and preventing
and detecting fraud. No personal financial, credit, or medical information was involved since
LexisNexis and Seisint do not collect such information. At no time was the LexisNexis or
Seisint technology infrastructure hacked into or penetrated nor was any customer data residing
within that infrastructure accessed or compromised.
Based on the incidents at Seisint, I directed our teams to conduct an extensive review of
data search activity at our Seisint unit and across all LexisNexis databases that contain
personal identifying information. In this review, we analyzed search activity for the past twentyseven
months to determine if there were any other incidents that potentially could have
adversely impacted consumers. We have just completed that review. As a result of this indepth
review, we discovered additional incidents where there was some possibility that
unauthorized persons may have accessed personal identifying information of approximately
280,000 additional individuals.
We deeply regret these incidents and any adverse impact they may have on the
individuals whose information may have been accessed. We took quick action to notify the
initial group of individuals and will begin notifying the recently-identified individuals within a few
days. We are providing all identified individuals with a consolidated credit report and credit
monitoring services. For those individuals who do become victims of fraud, we will provide
counselors to help them clear their credit reports of any information relating to fraudulent
activity. We will also provide them with identity theft expense insurance coverage up to $20,000
to cover expenses associated with restoring their identity and repairing their credit reports.
We have learned a great deal from the security incidents at Seisint and are making
substantial changes in our business practices and policies across all LexisNexis businesses to
help prevent any future incidents. These include:
? Changing customer password security processes to require that passwords for
both system administrators and users be changed at least every 90 days;
? Suspending customer passwords of system administrators and users that have
been inactive for 90 days;
? Suspending customer passwords after five unsuccessful login attempts and
requiring them to contact Customer Support to ensure security and appropriate
? Further limiting access to the most sensitive data in our databases by truncating
SSNs displayed in non-public documents and narrowing access to full SSNs and
DLNs to law enforcement clients and a restricted group of legally authorized
organizations, such as banks and insurance companies; and
? Educating our customers on ways they can increase their security.
Laws Governing LexisNexis Compilation and Dissemination of Identifiable Information
There are a wide range of federal and state privacy laws to which LexisNexis is subject
in the collection and distribution of personal identifying information. These include:
The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Social security numbers are one of the two most sensitive
types of information that we maintain in our systems and credit headers are the principal
commercial source of social security numbers. Credit headers contain the non-financial
identifying information located at the top of a credit report, such as name, current and prior
address, listed telephone number, social security number, and month and year of birth. Credit
header data is obtained from consumer reporting agencies.1 Since July 2001, the compilation of
credit header data has been subject to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act ("GLBA"), 15 U.S.C.
§§ 6801 et seq., and information subject to the GLBA cannot be distributed except for purposes
specified by the Congress, such as the prevention of fraud. For credit header data compiled
1 Consumer reporting agencies are governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"),
15 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq. Some information services, such as Seisint's Securint service and
LexisNexis PeopleWise, also are subject to the requirements of the FCRA.
prior to July 2001, the dissemination of this information is subject to a set of industry-developed
principles endorsed and enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.
Driver's Privacy Protection Act. The compilation and distribution of driver's license
numbers and other information obtained from driver's licenses are subject to the Driver's
Privacy Protection Act ("DPPA"), 18 U.S.C. §§ 2721 et seq., as well as state laws. Information
subject to the DPPA cannot be distributed except for purposes specified by the Congress, such
as fraud prevention, insurance claim investigation, and the execution of judgments.
Telecommunications Act of 1996. Telephone directories and similar publicly available
repositories are a major source of name, address, and telephone number information. The
dissemination of telephone directory and directory assistance information is subject to the
requirements of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, as well as state law.
FOIA and other Open Records Laws: Records held by local, state, and federal
governments are another major source of name, address, and other personally identifiable
information. The Freedom of Information Act, state open record laws, and judicial rules govern
the ability of LexisNexis to access and distribute personally identifiable information obtained
from government agencies and entities. See, e.g., 5 U.S.C. § 552.
Unfair and Deceptive Practice Laws: Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act,
and its state counterparts, prohibit companies from making deceptive claims about their privacy
and security practices. These laws have served as the basis for enforcement actions by the
Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general for inadequate information security
practices. The consent orders settling these enforcement actions typically have required
companies to implement information security programs that conform to the standards set forth in
the GLBA Safeguards Rule, 16 C.F.R. Part 314.
Information Security Laws: A growing body of state law imposes obligations upon
information service providers to safeguard the identifiable information they maintain. For
example, California has enacted two statutes that require businesses to implement and maintain
reasonable security practices and procedures and, in the event of a security breach, to notify
individuals whose personal information has been compromised. See California Civil Code
§§ 1798.81.5, 1798.82-84.
Legislative Measures LexisNexis Supports
We recognize that additional legislation may be necessary to further enhance data
security and address the growing problem of identity theft and fraud. LexisNexis supports the
following legislative approaches:
Data Security Breach Notification. Consistent with the proposals outlined by FTC
Chairman Majoras, we support requiring notification in the event of a security breach where
there is substantial risk of harm to consumers. We share the concerns that Chairman Majoras
has raised about ensuring that there is an appropriate threshold for when individuals actually
would benefit from receiving notification, such as where the breach is likely to result in misuse of
customer information. In addition, we believe that it is important that any such legislation
contain federal preemption to insure that companies can quickly and effectively notify individuals
and not struggle with complying with multiple, potentially conflicting and inconsistent state laws.
Adoption of Data Security Safeguards for Information Service Providers Modeled After
the GLBA Safeguard Rule. LexisNexis supports the proposal outlined by Chairman Majoras
whereby the types of security protections required by the Safeguard Rule of the GLBA would be
applicable to information service providers that are not themselves "financial institutions" as
defined under GLBA.
Increased penalties for identity theft and other cybercrimes and increased resources for
law enforcement. LexisNexis strongly encourages legislation that imposes more stringent
penalties for identity theft and other cybercrimes. Additionally, consumers and industry alike
would benefit from enhanced training for law enforcement and an expansion of the resources
available to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of identity theft and cybercrime. Too
many of our law enforcement agencies do not have the resources to neutralize these high-tech
It is critical that any legislation being considered ensure that legitimate businesses,
government agencies, and other organizations continue to have access to identifying
information that they depend on for important purposes including fraud detection and
prevention, law enforcement, and other critical applications.
Information services companies like LexisNexis provide government agencies with
critical information that they depend on to do their jobs. It is important that no legislation be
enacted that would prohibit or limit government access and use of commercial data. Moreover,
any legislation considered must strike the right balance between protecting privacy and ensuring
continued access to critically important information that is provided through information service
I appreciate the opportunity to be here today to discuss the important issues
surrounding data security, privacy and the use of commercial data. I look forward to working
with the members of this committee as you debate these important public policy issues.