State employees lobby legislators to exempt birth dates; OKC school district releases workers' DOBs

State employees will be at the Capitol on Tuesday lobbying legislators to close off public access to government workers' birth dates and protesting
The Oklahoman's attempt to keep the information public, the Oklahoma Public Employees Association said Monday.

"We cannot let
The Oklahoman win," OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley told members. "If they do, your birth date will be made public and your safety will be at risk."

On Saturday, OPEA's communications director likewise said public employees would be put at risk if the information is available to the public.

"It’s not just about identity theft," said Mark Beutler. "It’s about protecting our DHS case workers, our corrections officers, the Highway Patrol, employees of the OSBI and the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, and every other state employee. Just because a person chooses to work for the state doesn't mean they must give up their right to safety."

State law, however, already already exempts public employees' Social Security numbers, home addresses and telephone numbers.

Last week, Oklahoma City Public Schools released birth dates for more than 5,000 district employees in response to The Oklahoman's open records request, the newspaper reported

Has the school district put those employees at more risk of having their identities stolen?

No, says Richard J.H. Varn, a data privacy expert and former Iowa legislator who will deliver the keynote at an open government conference in Oklahoma City on Saturday.

"Birth date alone is not going to get you an identity theft,” Varn told
The Oklahoman.

Varn also reiterated that public records are not a source of information for identity thieves. Varn is executive director of the Coalition for Sensible Public Records Access and chief information officer for the city of San Antonio.

On Saturday, Varn will explain what sources we should be worried about and which solutions would be more effective than redacting information such as birth dates from public records.

FOI Oklahoma Inc. invites state legislators and OPEA members to attend the conference to hear Varn for themselves and to discuss the issue with him.

Details on the conference are available online: Oklahoma Sunshine ’10: Privacy, Politicians & the Public’s Need to Know

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Journalism

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, or its board of directors. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.