The National Board of Examiners in Optometry will no longer use the full, nine-digit social security numbers of optometrists and optometry students in its database, the organization announced on its website Oct. 28.
The board said it will rely on the OE Tracker number system as the primary identifier.
“The national board remains mindful of concerns within the profession as we continue to work with outside experts to investigate recent complaints regarding the privacy and security of personal information entrusted to us,” the NBEO said on its website.
The OE Tracker number and last four digits of social security numbers will be used going forward with new registrants, according to the NBEO.
“With respect to individuals already in the NBEO database, their full social security numbers have been replaced with only the last four digits,” the group stated on its website.
A new profile creation feature went into effect Oct. 20, the board stated in its fall newsletter.
The American Optometric Association reported on its website Oct. 13 that it passed a motion “encouraging optometric organizations to take immediate steps to meet recognized standards for data security” in light of an ongoing data breach affecting optometry.
The AOA called for optometric testing organizations to eliminate the use of social security numbers.
In early August, reports of unsolicited, fraudulent applications from optometrists for Chase Amazon.com Visa cards became public. The AOA said it contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Federal Trade Commission and sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney General’s office requesting that the Department of Justice investigate.
"This data breach has impacted doctors and students of optometry across the country, and the AOA is pleased that NBEO has agreed to take this action to alleviate concerns and prevent future identity thefts," AOA President Andrea P. Thau, OD, said on the AOA’s website. "We will continue to press for action, including federal investigation into the breach, to provide peace of mind for our members and colleagues."
"This is a great victory for the AOA's student members," Ashley Wing, Pacific University College of Optometry student, added. "The decision by the NBEO to reverse course and now begin to institute key security safeguards for our personal data follows a determined effort by concerned students and our national organization, the AOA, to insist on change."