State makes millions by selling personal information, but state legislators want DOBs of public employees kept secret

The state of Oklahoma makes tens of millions of dollars selling personal information about its residents,
The Oklahoman and Tulsa World reported Sunday.

In a joint investigation, the newspapers reported that for example, the state made at least $65 million 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.

The Oklahoman's editor pointed out in strongly worded editorial that while "the state is reaping millions of dollars from the sale of this information," Rep. Randy Terrill and Sen. Debbe Leftwich are pushing to exempt the birth dates of public employees from government personnel files.

Editor Ed Kelley also noted that Terrill used a list of registered voters for his 2004 campaign. Voter registration records include birth dates.

Keeping birth dates secret won't help protect workers' identities or safety because the information already is available elsewhere, the keynote speaker for
FOI Oklahoma Inc.'s recent Sunshine Week conference told the newspapers.

"What I would tell them is stop trying to shut the barn door after the horses are gone," said Richard J.H. Varn, chief information officer for the city of San Antonio and executive director of the Coalition for Sensible Public Records Access. "It's a lack of understanding by policy makers to what an effective countermeasure is to identity theft."

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.