ACLU Raises Privacy Concerns Over Rhode Island's Proposed Regulations for Gaming Licenses

January 22, 2007 12:00 am

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Collection of Employees’ Personal Financial Data Could Lead to Identity Theft, Privacy Expert Testifies

PROVIDENCE, RI – The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island today raised significant privacy concerns over proposed regulations that would force many employees of local gaming centers to turn over personal financial information to a state agency. National privacy expert Robert Ellis Smith will testify at a Department of Business Regulation hearing tomorrow on behalf of the ACLU to argue, among other things, that the proposed intrusion on the privacy of employees will likely be of little use to the state, but could be a magnet for identity thieves.

“Studies show that close supervision and creating a culture where employees all have a stake in honesty in the workplace perform far better than the idle collection of vast amounts of personal information,” Smith said. “Most likely, all this information will be stashed somewhere, never to be used, while it will remain a tempting archive for identity thieves and their cohorts.”

The Department is proposing to turn what used to be a two-page annual renewal form into a 20-page form for many employees of the Lincoln Park and Newport Grand gaming and entertainment centers. The new questions on the form require employees to disclose a variety of personal financial information, including a list of all bank accounts and safety deposit boxes.

The new form also repeats a dubious provision from prior forms, requiring employees to waive their Fourth Amendment rights over any premises which they “occupy or control” and their personal property and effects. The proposed form concludes with an expanded “release authorization,” permitting virtually every conceivable public and private institution to “release any and all information” it has pertaining to the employee that the Department requests.

The proposed form was apparently taken from one that has been used for some time at casinos in New Jersey. However, the ACLU noted that the spike in identity theft in recent years has caused people to be more concerned with protecting Social Security Numbers and other sensitive information.

“This is a perfect example of the government collecting information solely for the sake of collecting information,” said ACLU Executive Director Steven Brown. “There has been no rash of incidents of dishonesty among these employees to warrant such a severe intrusion on their privacy.”

Tomorrow’s public hearing was scheduled after unions for employees at the two facilities sued last month to halt implementation of the new forms.

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