ACLU of Florida Renews Call For Repeal of Law Permitting Sale of Photos and Personal Data from Driver's License Files

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
February 18, 1999 12:00 am

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MIAMI--The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today renewed its call for the repeal of the 1998 amendment to a transportation bill that permitted the sale of personal data on millions of Floridians.

The civil liberties organization cited reports in today's Washington Post that the U.S. Secret Service secretly funded a private company that had contracted with the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to purchase personal data from Florida driver's license files, including photographs and Social Security Numbers, as well as data on sex, race, and date of birth.

According to news reports, the federal government's assistance to Image Data, a Nashua, New Hampshire company, was designed to develop a nationwide data base to be used by law enforcement to combat terrorism, immigration abuses and identity theft.

Florida's contract with Image Data LLC was canceled by Gov. Jeb Bush after a storm of public protest that personal information on Floridians was to be sold. The ACLU had urged the Governor to cancel the contract and to seek repeal of the law that permitted the sale of personal information on millions of Floridians to private companies.

"It is apparent that the federal government and a private company attempted to deceive Florida citizens, former Gov. Lawton Chiles, members of the legislature and other public officials," said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida.

"Florida officials were almost duped into agreeing to sell personal information on Florida citizens in the belief that doing so would help protect citizens from credit card and identity fraud," Simon added.

"This was a contract induced by fraud: personal information obtained from the public for one purpose was about to be shared with government agencies for purposes unrelated to consumer fraud -- and without bothering to inform or obtain the consent of Florida citizens."

"We applauded the Governor's actions to cancel the contract," Simon noted, "but that is only half the job. Under our State's Constitution, the legislature has a duty to protect the privacy of Floridians and not be complicit in its violation. It's time to repeal the law permitting the transfer of personal information."

The provision was sponsored by Rep. Tom Feeney of Oviedo and enacted by the Legislation without debate in 1998.

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