[US] Department of Commerce Request for Information on Certification For Immediate Access to the Death Master File

Posted by Jan Meisels Allen

As previously reported on this Forum, included in the Bi-partisan Budget Act [ PL 1134-67],  is section 203 which restricts access to the Death Master File (DMF) for three years from date of death unless the person asking for access is certified by the Secretary of Commerce.  The requirements for certification were very limited and did not specifically include genealogists.

The Act limits immediate access to those who meet the following criteria:

1.         Has a legitimate fraud prevention interest;
2.         Has a legitimate business interest pursuant to a law, governmental
rule, regulation or fiduciary duty; and
3.         Has systems, facilities and procedures  in place to safeguard such
information and experience in maintaining the confidentiality, security and appropriate use of such information and agrees to satisfy these requirements.

The Secretary of Commerce was charged to promulgate regulations within 90 days from the bill being signed into law- which President Obama did on December 26, 2013.  The National Technical Information Service (NTIS) which publishes the Death Master File is requesting comments from the public regarding establishment and implementation of the program for access to the DMF.  Information gathered by this approach will be used in the development of the program and promulgated by the NTIS by Notice of Comment and Rulemaking.  Comments in reply to the request for information will be due 15 days from the date the notice is publicized in the Federal Register.  At the time of writing this announcement on February 26, the Federal Register has not published the announcement, but it is anticipated it will be published very soon. The NTIS notice has been published on their website http://www.ntis.gov/products/ssa-dmf.aspx

Written comments should be sent to:
John Hounsell at  jhounsell@ntis.gov or in written form mailed to NTIS 5301 Shawnee Road, Alexandria VA 22312.

It is expected that the information contained in the Federal Register will be the same as the information IAJGS received on which this announcement is made. If there are any differences between the NTIS notice and what is included in the Federal Register, the Federal Register governs.

In addition, the NTIS is holding a public meeting where members of the public are invited to provide comments in person.  The public meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday March 4 9:00 A.M. to 12 noon at  US Patent and Trade Mark Office, Madison Building 600 Dulany Street, Alexandria, VA.  The meeting will also be webcast. At this time no information has been provided as to how to connect in to the webcast. 

For further information contact Mr. Hounsell at jhounsell@ntis.gov

Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

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