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    Oklahoman and Tulsa World: State profits from residents’ data

    The Oklahoman and Tulsa World newspapers have published a joint report on an investigation into Oklahoma’s use and sales of the state’s residents’ personal data:

    The state of Oklahoma makes tens of millions of dollars selling personal information about people that some lawmakers and labor organizations want kept secret for government employees, The Oklahoman and Tulsa World have learned.

    At least $65 million has been made in the past five years from the sale of millions of motor vehicle records that include birth dates and other personal information of all state drivers, Department of Public Safety records show. […]

    As a result, dates of birth and other personal information flow freely on a daily basis to insurance companies, employment screening services, government agencies, attorneys, individuals and more.

    While the state earns money selling records that include birth dates, lawmakers and some labor groups are working to hide public employees’ birth dates from the public, the media 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 workers’ birth dates from the state’s Open Records Act. […]

    Concealing birth dates in public records is not an effective measure to fight identity theft because birth dates are available in so many other places, said [Richard J.H. Varn, chief information officer for the City of San Antonio and executive director of Coalition for Sensible Public Records Access].

    “It’s like saying because terrorists use airplanes we’re going to quit flying,” he said. “No. There are worthy countermeasures.”

    Birth dates can be found in voter registration records, driver’s licenses, lawsuits and even registration forms for some Web sites. […]

    Varn said governments should encourage people to monitor their credit reports, protect their personal computers with security software and ask online businesses to require a password with transactions that use credit cards.

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