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Newsletter Archives March 4, 2006
March 4, 2006 County Websites charged in lawsuits, investigations
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It seemed safe enough. The vendors said imaging the documents and publishing them online would save the county money, space and time.

But, for the counties, the unexpected results are becoming a quagmire of lawsuits, investigations, and legislation.

Please forward this newsletter to your legislators, officials and friends.

Click here to forward this newsletter
Fort Bend County Refuses Open Records Request for Federal Privacy Compliance Audit

County Clerk May Be Implicated in HIPPA Violations

For years, Fort Bend County Clerk Dianne Wilson has boasted of her ability to provide the world with sensitive information about county residents via her website. She claimed the information was public and that she was required by open records law to provide access. As it turns out, the information Wilson provided may not have been public according to federal law and no Texas law required Wilson to provide remote access over the Internet.

Officials in Fort Bend County are trying desperately to block the release of a taxpayer funded Federal Privacy Compliance Audit.

The Truth About Redaction Software

This week, did an article titled Suffolk was warned about SSN issues . It is a story that is playing out across America as county clerks who have published online respond to criticism from citizens and legislators.

But are the clerks really misleading their own citizens and legislators, or are they repeating the misleading reassurances given them by technology company sales personnel?

Records in Suffolk County, New York, for example, show the legislation was warned fifteen months ago that sensitive information contained in the records on the county clerk's website could be accessed by identity thieves, terrorists and stalkers. But lawmakers expanded the system after being assured the county clerk's office was creating a way to protect private information.

Suit filed over Web site

The People vs. Local Government
It is hard to imagine a greater breach of trust, privacy and jurisdictional authority by government than to provide remote access into the private lives of their citizens for the benefit of those outside the jurisdiction who stalk them.

Last Thursday Christian A. Jenkins filed a class-action federal lawsuit on behalf of Darrell Estep of Brown County, whose Social Security number was posted online along with those of 10,000 other citizens.

This case is only the latest we have documented.

Can your county afford the risk of being sued by your own citizens? Class Action Suits

County was warned about SSN issues

When legislators questioned the Suffolk County Clerk, (NY) fourteen months ago, they were assured by the clerk and the County's IT Director that the county had developed a way to protect the sensitive information

Last month the county's subscription website was pulled offline amid claims from legislators they had been mislead.

"If he could not protect that data, that should've have been his testimony," said Legis. Cameron Alden (R-Islip). "He convinced 18 people that the system was secure."


Crime Ring Steals SS#s From County Website

Criminals allegedly steal Social Security numbers from county Web site, spend about $500,000

The suspects created false identification documents, opened credit accounts and produced counterfeit checks in several states. Hamilton County Clerk says he has removed 400,000 documents from website in the past fourteen months.

Reader's Comments and Views

. .excellent in assessing the issues at hand. I only wish we here in Michigan had read it when it was first published!
Ginny McLaren, Tuscola County Register of Deeds

. . on December 22, 2005 the Federal Court ruled in our favor I am going to use your articles when we testify before the House Committee in March
Mildred Dodak, Register of Deeds, Saginaw County, Michigan

You are right, we need to work on legislation that would “block the transfer in bulk, prohibit the display over the Internet and require vendors to agree they would not resell or distribute the images.” . . I will forward your newsletter and ask others to forward . . Texas County Clerk

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