The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996
required the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop a National
Directory of New Hires. This directory is a database of information on all
newly hired employees, quarterly wage reports, and unemployment insurance
claims in the United States. The National Directory of New Hires is maintained
by the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement in the Administration for
Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
It is housed at the Social Security Administration's National Computer Center.
The purpose of this new database was entirely laudable — helping states locate
parents who have skipped out on their child support obligations. All
databases are created for laudable purposes. But they have clear tendencies
to grow and adopt new uses, at some point uses which may vary dramatically from
their original purposes.
Already, the National Directory of New Hires has been expanded to track down
defaulters on student loans. Additional expansions have been proposed that would
give state unemployment insurance officials access to the database.
A database covering every working American should entitle people to be concerned
about their privacy, and their civil rights. It was a database of information,
collected for laudable purposes, after all, that allowed Japanese Americans to be rounded up
and interned during World War II.