Oklahoma Sells Citizens' Data And Makes Millions - InformationWeek

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Commentary
4/6/2010
03:28 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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Oklahoma Sells Citizens' Data And Makes Millions

Over the past five years, the state of Oklahoma has raised more than $65 million by selling its citizens' personal information including names, birth dates, driver's-license numbers, and more. As further proof of a rotten situation run amok, the state's now trying to shield public-sector workers from those same privacy-trampling practices to which private-sector citizens are subject.

Over the past five years, the state of Oklahoma has raised more than $65 million by selling its citizens' personal information including names, birth dates, driver's-license numbers, and more. As further proof of a rotten situation run amok, the state's now trying to shield public-sector workers from those same privacy-trampling practices to which private-sector citizens are subject.From an article in NewsOK.com:

Motor vehicle records include driver names, birth dates, driver's license numbers and recent driving histories. Some of that information is not available under the state Open Records Act.

Motor vehicle records can be bought online or in person. The state gets $10 per record, and most of the money goes into the state's general fund, said Wellon Poe, chief legal counsel for the Department of Public Safety. Top clients are clearing houses that sell the information to insurance companies and corporations, Poe said.

I'm sure that gentleman, as chief legal counsel for the Public Safety Dept., is ensuring that what transpires is legal. The question, though, is while it may be legal, is it right?

Particularly when state employees try to persuade their bureaucrat buddies to tailor the policies so that public-sector employees are exempt from having their own information exposed to this data mining and personal-information marketplace. From the article:

While the state earns money selling records that include birth dates, lawmakers and some labor groups are working to shut off access to birth dates of public employees to the public, The Oklahoman and others working on the public's behalf. Senate Bill 1753, by Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, would exempt government worker birth dates from the state's Open Records Act.

Leftwich, Terrill and supporters of the bill claim releasing birth dates could endanger the safety of employees and lead to identity theft. They have provided no evidence of such harm being done in the past as a result of birth dates being public.

What I want to know is this: if this personal-data selloff is such a wonderful idea and is so good for the state, then why in the world would state employees be trying to keep their own names and info off-limits? I realize all states these days are scrambling for dough, but this seems like one approach that should be shut down pronto.

But if that can't happen, then certainly the public-sector employees in Oklahoma should not be allowed to skip out on all the fun-let them do their civic fund-raising duty for the state just like the private-sector folks are doing.

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