Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Welcome to Oklahoma Where Your SSN is Public Information

Big rant ahead. Today's news in Oklahoma is that after 9 months of redacting what would normally be considered private information - You know, stuff like social security numbers, dates of birth, everything you need to commit identity theft - now it's deemed OK to have it our there after all.

Initially, the news that this information was on the web from the Oklahoma County Clerk's office caused quite a stir. Then, it was learned that the information has been there for quite some time and that contractors have been working for 9 months to obscure it from public view.

Then, here comes the judges. Today, the Oklahoma Supreme Court rescinded an earlier order issued on March 11 that restricted access to court records containing private information.

The press here threw a fit because that's a good place to dig for news.

According to the court:

"The Supreme Court of Oklahoma is very aware of privacy and identity theft concerns of individuals related to personal data that may appear on the Court's Web site. We are cognizant that many businesses and individuals rely on the information court clerks have placed on our Web site. Personal privacy balanced with reliable public information is critical for every free society.

"Due to the very important issues for all concerned, the Supreme Court is hereby withdrawing its Privacy and Public Access order... handed down March 11, 2008, to give the issue further study and consideration." Free-speech advocates praised the court's decision to reverse course.

“We're happy that they withdrew the order,” said Mark Thomas, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Press Association. “A broad, sweeping closure of massive public records is not the answer to identity theft problems.”

He should have followed that with, "Go subscribe to Lifelock. You'll need it if you live in Oklahoma."

So now the whole issue will be revisited who knows when, which will give crooks around the globe all the time they need to get the information that's out there.

A spokesperson from Hackers United to Rip You Off said "We agree that private information should be made public. In fact, we work hard to make this happen on a daily basis. We applaud the Oklahoma State Supreme Court and the Oklahoma Press Association for this courageous move. Now, I've got to finish ordering my new 60" flat panel television with my new credit card from Best Buy I got today."

Okay, that's a fictitious quote for those of you might not get my sarcasm.

What I don't get is why a simple distinction can't be made between sensitive information (SSN, Date of Birth, etc) and public information. I would also like to point out that:

1) Over 30 states protect such information, and
2) Private companies (like TJX) get fined and prosecuted for losing this kind of information


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