Over 30 million vital record certificates (birth certificates, marriage certificates and death certificates, divorce and marriage dissolution decrees) are issued annually in the United States and U. S. Territories. Each year, a greater percentage of these are ordered online increasing our attention to domestic security issues, privacy issues and personal identity protection.


As a policy matter, our government is acutely attuned to domestic security issues sacrificing individual privacy to security, and perhaps - this should be explored - inadvertently increasing potential for identity theft.

Here are important questions to consider when ordering your vital records online:

Does the issuing government entity provide direct online ordering through it's own system? Surprisingly, the vast majority of issuing government agencies rely heavily upon a private company to process online vital record requests. Typically, a link to a private company is placed on the government agency website. Your personal identifying information is processed by a private company and then passed on to the government agency that makes and sends you a copy of your birth, marriage or death certificate, or dissolution decree.

If the government entity uses a private company to process online vital record requests, consider these questions:
  • Does the private company have contractual relationship with the government entity to never sell, disseminate or use any of the personal identifying information you provided to it?

  • Does the private company have plans to use or disseminate any of the personal identifying you provide to it in the future?

  • Does the private company facilitate collection of your personal identifying information by other private companies by providing landing pages or vital record order processing methods to those private companies? If so, what do those private companies do with your personal identifying information?

If you use a private company to process your birth, death, marriage or dissolution certificate request, consider these questions:

1) Does the company you use in turn provide your information to another private company to process your request?

  • If so, what may that company do with your personal identifying information?

  • Does the company you use input your personal identifying information into another private company's database in order to process your request?

  • Does the company you use have contractual agreement with private companies it uses to fulfill your request to never use your personal identifying information for any purpose other than fulfilling your request, - and to destroy that information upon completing your request?

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