Identity Theft Expert Speaker; Panel proposes expanded privacy in public records

Identity Theft Expert Speaker Robert Siciliano Comments;

Most of the comments by those polled below are legitimate concerns fraught with desperation and  lack of understanding of the problem.  The proverbial cat is out of the bag. Privacy is dead. Privacy is an illusion. While the masses say they want privacy, the reality is they want cheap goods and convenience. People will give up all their privacy for a free candy bar. While government can and should redact personal data and do what they can to sure up “private information”, the data is already out there. It is up to the individual to understand this and manage their circumstances.

The next generation is growing up via social networks. “Privacy” will be associated with words or phrases such as 8-track tape or “No Doc Mortgage”.

So when someone calls you with your dossier and they use this to extract even more data or to threaten you in some way know what is happening and how. Even if every SSN was redacted, that wouldnt stop identity theft.


“Panel proposes expanded privacy in public records”

Iowa governments would have greater authority to black out personal information from public records under proposals recommended by a legislative committee.

Advocates say the proposals would protect citizens from identity theft.

But opponents say the unintended results could be alarming, particularly if the public is unable to differentiate between, for example, a convicted sex offender and another citizen with the same name.

“The public has more to fear from government records containing information about them of which they are unaware than the release of information pertaining to them,” said Bill Monroe, executive director of the Iowa Newspaper Association.

Lawmakers formed the Identity Theft Prevention Study Committee, which met in November, to consider how the release of personal information in Iowa could make residents vulnerable to identity theft.

Public concern heightened this year when privacy advocates complained about a land records site, The Social Security numbers of thousands of Iowans from all 99 counties were listed on the site, including those of Gov. Chet Culver and Secretary of State Michael Mauro.

Administrators of the site quickly shut down the ability to view details of the records after the advocates pointed out the problem. The group says removing personal information from all the records – called redaction – will cost the state as much as $2.3 million, which includes $500,000 to update its computer programs.

Culver said in an interview this week that he agrees steps should be taken to redact personal information from public records that can be used to steal Iowans’ identities.

However, he said he was not sure how the state would pay for such efforts. County recorders, for example, have proposed increasing an electronic filing fee from $1 to $3 to pay for the redaction effort.

“I think protecting individuals’ identity is important,” Culver said. “Once it gets to the level of security risk, we should take steps to limit how far we go in terms of disclosing things like Social Security numbers.”

The committee made 11 recommendations, several of which would give governments more power to remove Social Security or bank account numbers.

Sen. Steve Kettering, R-Lake View, a member of the study committee, said there is no simple answer to the problem. Lawmakers must find the appropriate balance between protecting identities and maintaining public records that protect the public through transparent government.

“There isn’t an easy solution, and that’s the hard part,” said Kettering, who noted that detailed records are critical in his profession as president of Farmers State Bank in Lake View.

Open-records advocates generally agree that some sensitive information like credit card numbers should not be released. The problem arises if governments redact information such as dates of birth, addresses or other unique identifiers, said Kathleen Richardson of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council.

Richardson said lawmakers need to establish how frequently identity theft occurs through public records. She believes the problem is rare.

“I think there needs to be a demonstrated need of why we need to vacuum public records,” Richardson said. “We also have to carefully consider what our definition of personal information is and make sure it’s not so broad that it wipes out too much information.”

Sen. Steve Warnstadt, D-Sioux City, said the committee has tried to be sensitive to the concerns brought forward by openrecords advocates when making its recommendations. The recommendations will likely be used to help draft proposals during the 2009 legislative session, which begins Jan. 12.

“The point of this is not to restrict access. The point is to prevent identity theft and personal information from being disclosed from people who don’t have a legitimate reason to have that information,” said Warnstadt, the committee co-chairman.

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