An open letter to the Screen Actor’s Guild, sent to all branches and the national office.
November 5, 2005
Dear elected board members of the Screen Actors Guild:
It is with sincere urgency that I write this letter today to inform you of a great threat to the privacy and identities of our members. This threat exists for all of our members: from our young performers to our stage and screen veterans. From Academy Award winners to new members who have just joined and are waiting – and willing – to be in our television shows and movies.
This threat exists, not on some darkened street corner or dodgy offices off the beaten path, but on a Guild sponsored web site.
This is a very serious situation.
Until as recently as the year 2000, it was commonplace to find resumes of our members not only containing their credits, but also their social security number. While we have been educated about the importance of protecting our personal information, those resumes are still out there, and continue to circulate among both fans and the movie-memorabilia collectors around the world.
The Screen Actors Guild web site allows its members to register on their web site to manage their professional information. Using the web site, members can pay their dues online, as well as check their residuals coming from signatory production companies. To register for access, members merely need to enter the last four digits of their social security number and their SAG membership number. The use of the SAG membership number is to provide a unique identifying number that only the Guild member registering will know. This prevents unauthorized use from someone only knowing a social security number.
Unfortunately, the Guild itself is giving out member’s SAG numbers.
On its “Locate an Actor” web site, www.castsag.com, you can search the SAG membership database to find an actors representative information. This was done, presumably, to alleviate many of the phone calls coming into the actor locator lines at the national office. While this is a good idea, they also provide the performer’s SAG membership ID.
For the purpose of this article, and for illustration purposes only, let us use the castsag.com web site to look up the representative information for the late Don Adams. By typing in his name into the search box, we get a list of several names, including the one we want, Don Adams. Clicking on his name brings us to his representation information for commercials, theatrical and television. If you look at the top in the address bar (where your current web page shows in your web browser) you will see the following:
Those last digit of numbers is Don Adams’s SAG membership number. Go ahead, try it for yourself using your own name.
With this information, and an old resume, it is easy to register with a fake email address on the SAG web site. Our older actors are especially susceptible, since their resumes oftentimes included their social security numbers, and they may not have yet registered on the SAG web site. The first person to obtain their social security number and their SAG membership number will have immediate access to both change their representative information (since the membership number is all that’s required to make changes) and also to see how much money in residuals the celebrity they are masquerading as makes.
This is not necessary. It would be an easy fix for the Screen Actors Guild to simply assign everybody in the castsag.com database a unique ID number. Anybody with knowledge of database structures knows how easy it would be. So why hasn’t it been done. How many of our performers have fans or stalkers looking up their residual information?
I urge the Screen Actors Guild to take immediate action in protecting the privacy and security of its members and the membership database by removing the SAG membership numbers from the castsag.com database immediately. In addition, I ask that the National Board send out a press release advising members about the current situation and the remedies they are taking to protect our personal information.
For the personal safety of all our Guild, I ask for immediate action.
Troy A. Rutter
Permission granted to reproduce this article as long as a link back to http://www.kidsinthebiz.com remains intact.