Crowdfunding public access to the Social Security death index

The Social Security Administration has a tool for looking up deaths in the USA that took place within the past three years, but older deaths are in the Social Security Death Master File (aka Death Index); you can buy a limited version of that from the SSA for $2.3k + $3.4k/yr; the SSA has quoted access to the full version at $5.2k.

Sai is crowdfunding to buy the full Death Index, which they will then publish online, for free, for all. As they say, "It is extremely useful for genealogical and medical research, preventing fraud, etc."

They're also suing the SSA to just publish this themselves: Congress already ordered them to do so.

The database includes "Name (first, middle, last, & suffix); date of birth & death; SSN; validation (Verified: Report verified with a family member or someone acting on behalf of the family / Proof: Death certificate etc observed by SSA); record update date; and record update code (add/change/delete)."

Think this is a rather un-“open” approach to providing something that Congress required to be publicly available. We would like to start litigation — but also to also pre-pay the requested $5.2k as a surety, so that they cough up the database now and we have a non-hypothetical fee charging to litigate. It would be very interesting to see, for instance, how exactly they spend 150 hours “searching” for a single database file.

We will make all received information publicly available, for free, both as flat files and through a Google BigQuery database. If we win the litigation, and get a ruling that it has to be made available for free, we will also make our hosted version continuously updated by simply having a regular re-FOIA of the deltas. Otherwise, we’ll do so if we can get the cost of obtaining it funded.

Social Security Death Master File [Sai/Muckrock]

(Image: Gunnvor Bakke, CC-BY-SA)