Release of Personal Information Violates Privacy

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
August 28, 2009 12:00 am

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City Must Be Vigilant Against Releasing Social Security Numbers and Driver’s Licenses While Promptly Filling Records Requests

MAPLE HEIGHTS, OH- Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter to John Montello, law director for the city of Maple Heights, urging the city to be more diligent in protecting the privacy of its residents. Recently, a person made a public records request for information about a property they owned in the community. Included in the response from the city was a copy of two other residents’ driver’s licenses, one of which fully displayed a social security number.

ACLU of Ohio Staff Counsel Carrie Davis said, “In an age where identity theft can occur with a click of a mouse, Maple Heights residents cannot afford officials to be lax with protecting their private information.”

Davis continued, “Government agencies often collect as much personal information about residents as possible, even if it is unneeded. These bloated databases become difficult to manage and unintentional leaks are almost inevitable. Officials should cut back on aggregating unnecessary information in order to protect people’s privacy.”

Both state and federal laws prohibit government agencies from releasing information like social security numbers, photo identification and details on medical conditions. Federal law mandates that information relating to driver’s licenses cannot be released unless the person gives permission. Additionally, state law excludes social security numbers from public records and mandates that agencies have procedures in place to ensure the information is not mistakenly leaked.

State law also allows those who have been harmed by the release of private information to pursue compensation in civil court.

“Records requests should be filled in a timely manner, without sacrificing privacy. Maple Heights officials must reevaluate their current policies, procedures and training to ensure that records are open to the public without violating residents’ privacy rights” Davis concluded.

Read the letter

to the Maple Heights Law Department

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