Bleeding you for information

On Saturday, I rolled up my sleeve at the United Blood Services Bloodmobile in the parking lot of the Storey County Senior Center to give blood, and found out they want more than just your blood. They want your information.

First line on the form? Social Security number. Why would one have to give their Social Security number just to give blood?

I'm not the least bit squeamish about having some 20-year-old technician shove a needle in my arm, but I am very squeamish about giving out my Social Security number to every Tom, Dick or Mary that asks for it.

The form also asked for my name, address, phone number, e-mail address, education level, employer and employer's address and phone number.

The technicians on the bloodmobile said the forms were required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which oversees the nation's blood supply.

The federal government, of course.

I am one of those who thinks the government is getting enough information on its citizens without gaining more from blood donors.

I can understand some of the questions, like "Have you ever traded sex for drugs or money?" or "Have you ever had sex with anyone who ever traded sex for drugs or money."

For those of us who never have, those questions are almost a joke.

But wanting to put our identifying information down on a form that will end up in the hands of the federal government? How many stories have you read over the past few years about federal bureaucrats losing laptops?

Then there's the problem of identity theft, which is a booming business these days.

I called the FDA, but no one has returned my call or e-mail. So I called Mary Meeker of United Blood Services in Reno, and she was very happy to enlighten me as to why they need so much information.

She said she understood people's fears of identity theft, and Social Security numbers are not required, just requested, although that's not made clear on the form.

You only find that out if you question it and most people don't. The person who gave blood after me put her number on without question. Most people probably just don't think about it.

Meeker said it's all about identification in case a test for HIV, hepatitis, or some other disease comes back positive.

"We request a Social Security number because it's another mechanism for us to identify the donor," she said. "It's so important we have the right donor in case it's tested and tests positive, we notify the right person."

Meeker said identification was also the reason they want your employer and your employer's address, which is also not required, just requested.

"Some people would rather be contacted at work," she said.

They ask for educational level because they want to recruit certain donors, like Hispanics.

"There are certain donors that we try to penetrate, to try and get people to donate," she said. "We're actively trying to recruit from the Hispanic population."

I didn't know you could tell a donor was Hispanic by his or her education level.

What is done with this information?

Meeker said the information was used to identify donors in case of bad test results, and to survey test markets to get more people to donate blood. All laptops are encrypted and updated on a weekly basis, and working data is cleared daily, so it's safe.

I'm sure they try very hard to ensure the blood supply and the data is secure, and I'm not trying to get people to stop donating blood. It's essential that as many of us do as possible, because many of us will need blood someday.

I just think people should ask why when they are asked for their Social Security number, and withhold it if possible.

The feds have enough information on us already.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or 882-2111 ext. 351.


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