FAQs From Counties

For individuals whose religious beliefs are to cover their face with material, are we to exempt them from the SFIS process? Or, are we allowed to ask if they can remove it in order to use SFIS, and if they refuse, then exempt them?

What does a county do if SFIS hardware is stolen or missing?

Does the system match photos?

How does the county add a new site?

Is the county responsible for any additional workstations?

How does a county get equipment moved?

What does the county do if the system goes down?

What happens if the county wants to work on a Saturday?

Are we allowed to keep copies of the match responses in our case record?

Should counties image clients in SFIS for Inter County Transfer (ICT)?

How do counties request a replacement Removable Storage Device (RSD, AKA thumb drive)?

Does the state have any regulations/policies/best practices regarding the placement of a SFIS workstation within an imaging bureau?

How do counties handle the imaging of clients who participate in a witness protection program?

Can the SFIS photo be used to verify the identity of a recipient who requests a replacement EBT card but does not have a photo ID?

How long should counties retain their SFIS match responses?

How do counties handle the imaging of clients whose excessive length of an index fingernail prevents the client from being properly finger imaged?

If a CalWORKs customer applies and we discover an issue with the images, the CW case can still be approved while the “hit” is being resolved. If the customer was not receiving duplicate aid and the hit was due to an error such as wrong client being on the file CIN or duplicate CINs were discovered, does the client need to re-fingerprint to continue being eligible?”

Can CDSS provide guidance on the scope of research and/or resources that counties should use for File Clearance/CIN research that is used to clean up Resolutions?”


Q. For individuals whose religious beliefs are to cover their face with material, are we to exempt them from the SFIS process? Or, are we allowed to ask if they can remove it in order to use SFIS, and if they refuse, then exempt them?

A. Per ACL 10-03, the county can request the client remove the item, but cannot require the client to remove the item when taking the SFIS photo. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the California Department of Social Services Fraud Bureau.


Q. What does a county do if SFIS hardware is stolen or missing?

A. Stolen/missing SFIS equipment and/or client data should be reported to the SFIS Help Desk (1-866-860-7347) IMMEDIATELY. An alternative is to use the SFIS Workstation Security Form as quickly as possible.

The person making the discovery should immediately notify their County Coordinator. If the County Coordinator is not available, the person making the discovery should contact the SFIS Help Desk (1-866-860-7347) or submit the SFIS Workstation Security Form as quickly as possible.

When the Coordinator is contacted by the person making the discovery, the Coordinator should contact the SFIS Help Desk (1-866-860-7347) or submit the on-line SFIS Workstation Security Form as quickly as possible.

The following information should be provided by the county to the SFIS Help Desk:

  • Date the incident occurred; specify as unknown if the date is not known.
  • Date the incident was detected, incident location(s), and a general description of the incident.
  • If the incident involved removable media, indicate if the data was encrypted or was not encrypted. Specify unknown if you do not know whether it is encrypted. The information contained on all removable storage media (thumb drive) created by SFIS’ stored transaction(s) mode is encrypted.
  • Indicate if there was personally identifiable information involved in the incident or if there is the potential that personally identifiable information may be compromised in the incident. Impacted individuals will be notified according to California Department of Social Services Information Security Office procedures.
  • If personally identifiable information involved, indicate (if known) what information was compromised, such as: name, social security number, driver’s license or state identification number, health or medical information or financial account number.
  • Report the number of individuals affected, if known.

SFIS staff will contact the California Highway Patrol (CHP). If local law enforcement assistance is required, they will be contacted by the CHP. The Help Desk will inform the appropriate state officials.

Be prepared to provide assistance if the incident requires an investigation, including, if necessary, describing to law enforcement officials the sequence of events that prompted the suspicion that an information security incident occurred.


Q. Does the system match photos?

A. No, only fingerprint images.


Q. How does the county add a new site?

A. Instructions, including the form, are listed on the SFIS web site under Move, Add, or Change (MAC).


Q. Is the county responsible for any additional workstations?

A. Each county was assessed prior to implementation and workstations were allocated to the county based on intake volume. If new welfare intake sites are added in the county, additional equipment may be needed. A request should be made to SFIS and each site will be evaluated on a site by site basis. If the new site meets the SFIS requirements, the equipment, etc. will be provided by the state. If the site does not meet the requirement, the county may make arrangements with the vendor and the state to lease/purchase equipment on their own.


Q. How does a county get equipment moved?

A. This is covered on the SFIS web site under Move, Add, or Change (MAC).


Q. What does the county do if the system goes down?

A. Call the SFIS Help Desk: 1-866-860-7347 If the problem cannot be resolved immediately, the county can begin using “stored transaction(s)” mode


Q. What happens if the county wants to work on a Saturday?

A. During “off hours” fingerprint images and photos can be processed in a “stored transaction(s)” mode. On Monday when the system is available, the process can be completed.


Q. Are we allowed to keep copies of the match responses in our case record?

A. Please see CDSS All County Information Notice 1-118-00 dated December 1, 2000 regarding maintenance and retention of SFIS client records in county case files. When a match occurs, a report providing demographic data and a photo image will be generated. This report should be maintained in a confidential file until resolution has occurred and has been properly documented in the resolution queue. Once documented in the resolution queue, the original match response with photo image should be confidentially destroyed, and a new report without the photo image will be generated for the case file.


Q. Should counties image clients in SFIS for Inter County Transfer (ICT)?

A. No, per ACIN I-05-09.


Q. How do counties request a replacement Removable Storage Device (RSD, AKA thumb drive)?

A. Requests for replacement of a Removable Storage Device (RSD, AKA Thumb Drive) are required to be made by the SFIS County Coordinator, Alternate SFIS County Coordinator or county staff members authorized to request image removals through the SFIS Help Desk (1-866-860-7347).

Recommended county procedures before calling the SFIS Help Desk:

  • Determine the reason the replacement is necessary.
  • Determine who in the County is authorized to make RSD replacement requests.
  • Determine if client data is present on the lost/stolen RSD.

When requesting a replacement RSD, the authorized caller must be prepared to give the following information to the SFIS Help Desk agent:

  • Reason for the replacement.
  • If a RSD is lost/stolen, is client data present on the missing RSD? Yes or No.
  • The SFIS county workstation host name that is associated with the RSD.

Replacement RSDs, when approved, will be mailed to the SFIS County Coordinators as soon as possible. 


Q. Does the state have any regulations/policies/best practices regarding the placement of a SFIS workstation within an imaging bureau? Does the screen have to be pointed away from everyone so that data isn’t seen? Does the machine have to be in a room by itself? Does the workstation need to be physically secured in any way? Any other rules?

A. What we are looking for is the placement of the SFIS workstation must be in accordance with MPP 40-105.3 and WIC 10850 (B).

MPP 40-105.34 states: "SFIS information shall be considered confidential under section 10850 of the Welfare and Institutions Code".

Section 10850 (B) states: "Except as otherwise provided in this section, no person shall publish or disclose or permit or cause to be published or disclosed any list of persons receiving public social services. Any county welfare department in this state may release lists of applicants for, or recipients of, public social services, to any other county welfare department or the State Department of Social Services, and these lists or any other records shall be released when requested by any county welfare department or the State Department of Social Services. These lists or other records shall only be used for purposes directly connected with the administration of public social services. Except for those purposes, no person shall publish, disclose, or use or permit or cause to be published, disclosed, or used any confidential information pertaining to an applicant or recipient."

You must safeguard client information as per the citations provided above. There is no Best Practices information published regarding this matter.


Q. How do counties handle the imaging of clients who participate in a witness protection program?

A. Counties follow the Domestic Violence Victim policy (as described in ACIN 10-03) for those who participate in a witness protection program.


Q. Can the SFIS photo be used to verify the identity of a recipient who requests a replacement EBT card but does not have a photo ID?

A. No, the SFIS data cannot be used to verify the identity of a recipient who requests a replacement EBT but does not have a photo ID.  CDSS does not have the authority to authorize the use of SFIS data for any purpose other than preventing/detecting duplicate aid.  


Q. How long should counties retain their SFIS match responses?

A. Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) Section 10851(a) establishes a case management record retention period of three years.  As a general rule, the three year retention period begins on the date on which public social services were last provided.  The CDSS Manual of Policies and Procedures (MPP) 23-353 requires records and their supporting documents to be retained for three years from the date the state submits the last expenditure report to the federal government.  You may refer to All County Letter (ACL) No. 15-26 for specific details about record retention.


Q. How do counties handle the imaging of clients whose excessive length of an index fingernail prevents the client from being properly finger imaged?

A. Please refer to All County Information Notice (ACIN) No. 10-03 for guidance for the county to follow.  The operator must ask the client to cut the nail and advise the client that a readable fingerprint is a condition of eligibility.


Q. If a CalWORKs customer applies and we discover an issue with the images, the CW case can still be approved while the “hit” is being resolved. If the customer was not receiving duplicate aid and the hit was due to an error such as wrong client being on the file CIN or duplicate CINs were discovered, does the client need to re-fingerprint to continue being eligible?”

A. Welfare and Institutions Code 10830(e) (1) specifically instructs that fingerprint imaging “shall be scheduled only during the application appointment or regularly scheduled appointments. No other special appointment shall be required. No otherwise eligible individual shall be ineligible to receive benefits under this chapter due to a technical problem occurring in the fingerprint imaging system or as long as the person consents to and is available for fingerprint imaging at a mutually agreed-upon time, not later than 60 days from the initial attempt to complete fingerprint imaging.”

Because an administrative error doesn’t fall within the realm of “technical problem”, and the client did, in fact, complete the fingerprint imaging, he/she cannot be compelled to complete the process within 60 days.

By having undergone the fingerprint and photograph process, the client has fulfilled the intent of the program requirement. If the client is not receiving duplicate aid, he/she continues to be eligible for benefits, even though a usable finger image is not on record. A re-image does need to be taken, but it should be at the client’s convenience, which may be at the next scheduled appointment. According to All County Letter 00-32, “Counties are encouraged to fingerprint clients when they are in the office to take care of other business.”


Q. Can CDSS provide guidance on the scope of research and/or resources that counties should use for File Clearance/CIN research that is used to clean up Resolutions?

A. No. CDSS does not provide guidance. Counties use their own processes for File Clearance/CIN Research.