Legal Battles for Control Of Local Government Funds, Privacy, and Records
Can there be any greater breach of jurisdictional authority by a local government than to provide remote access into the private lives of all their citizens for the benefit of those outside the jurisdiction who stalk them? Probably not, but some government agencies insist it is their right to exploit the records you give them. Many citizens feel they have no choice but to seek legal recourse.
Class action suits have sprung up from Alaska to Ohio against state and county governments who publish the community records online. The following cases illustrate how angry citizens and their attorneys are fighting back.
If you feel your security may have been compromised, Click here for legal help and a free evaluation of your possible case An attorney will evaluate your case. You are under no obligation to accept legal representation from the lawyer that reviews your case. Lawyers are usually paid out of the proceeds of the settlement or verdict rendered.
Cincinnati attorney Christian A. Jenkins filed a class-action federal lawsuit on behalf of Darrell Estep of Mount Orab, Brown County, whose Social Security number was posted online. They also sought a temporary restraining order from the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati to remove Social Security numbers from Blackwell's site.
Jenkins' class-action lawsuit says Estep's Social Security number was among more than 10,000 published by Blackwell's office, without his permission, when he financed the purchase of a trailer in 2002, flooring in 2003 and a riding mower in 2004. They want the personal information removed immediately as well as legal fees and an unspecified financial award for damages.
Identity Theft - A Growing National Problem
Who Is Responsible when my Identity is Stolen?
Clearly, if an institution or business entity fails to protect your information or is somehow party to the breach that revealed information they had filed on you, there is a definite liability question whether it be a institution, an employer, a credit bureau or the government. Even if an employee or contractor committed an illegal act and revealed your data, there may still be a liability issue for the employer of that person or their services.
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By Kimball Perry
Post staff reporter
A day after Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Greg Hartmann announced he was removing 320,000 public documents from his Web site to protect privacy, attorneys for a Cincinnati woman said Hartmann made the move after she sued him following the theft of her identity. . .
"They were dismissive, saying 'You can't prove it came from us,'" Jenkins said.
That changed, though, when Blue Ash police made an arrest in an identity theft case and the arrested person admitted he was part of an identity theft ring that used the clerk's Web site as a major source of personal information to steal identities.
UPDATE:Prosecutors charge 8 with identity theft
Hamilton County officials ordered the removal of hundreds of documents from a county Web site Friday after learning some contained Social Security numbers and other personal data.
The decision to strip the records from the county clerk of courts' Web site came as authorities in Cincinnati and Columbus continued to face criticism for making personal information available on the Internet.
Judge orders removal of deeds from Web
Published in the Asbury Park Press 06/9/05
James F. Norton III filed suit in the Chancery Division of Monmouth County Superior Court, arguing that publication of his Social Security number would expose him to financial identity theft.
You have the right to have your local government keep your identity secure.
Volume 12.18 September 9, 2005
In an important victory for privacy rights, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has held that individuals suing under the Drivers Privacy Protection Act can qualify to receive monetary damages even if they did not suffer financial harm.
"Damages for a violation of an individual's privacy are a quintessential example of damages that are uncertain and possibly unmeasurable. Since liquidated damages are an appropriate substitute for the potentially uncertain and unmeasurable actual damages of a privacy violation, it follows that proof of actual damages is not necessary for an award of liquidated damages. To us, the plain meaning of the statue is clear -- a plaintiff need not prove actual damages to be awarded liquidated damages"
Note: If you have not become a victim of identity theft yet, you soon may be. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that every American may become a victim of this crime within the next five years. Shredding your documents and monitoring your credit will not protect you, as long as the government continues to publish your records online. Don't wait until you become a victim. Click here for legal help and a free evaluation of your possible case
When Maryjane Hinman moved to Alaska she may have felt safe for the first time in years. Ms. Hinman has a fear of stalkers for reasons that are private. Her address and phone number are unlisted. As a nurse she was required to register with the state Division of Occupational Licensing. Maryjane's fear-free life ended when she discovered the state had published her home address on the state Web site. She pleaded with the state to remove her address from their searchable online database of licensed nurses. The state refused and offered no valid justification for publicizing the personal addresses of nurse-licensees. In April 2005 the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Hinman and all nurse-licensees in Alaska seeking to bar state officials from publishing contact information for licensed nurses in its online searchable database, on its website, or on informational CDs.
This case illustrates how something so seemingly minor as a local address becomes a threat when published outside the local jurisdiction. Ms. Hinman had little reason to fear her address would be discovered by her assailant if the information she provided the state had remained within the jurisdiction of the state. Hinman registered in Massachusetts but they did not release this information outside the state so she did not expect Alaska to publish it over the Internet.
Quick Fact: Amy Boyer was murdered as a direct result of information her stalker found online. Liam Youens used information Amy entrusted with her government to locate and murder her.
Two weeks after her funeral, identity thieves stole her identity and run up thousands of dollars in credit card debt.
Demand your right to be secure -Click here for legal help and a free evaluation of your possible case
For more information on this case:
ACLU Press Release
Tom Zeller, New York Times, May 18, 2005
Suit filed against State of Arizona
A class action lawsuit has been launched against the state of Arizona in regards to the State's use of an individual's Social Security number as their driver's license number, which was the policy from 1986 until three years ago. The suit claims that the state has been negligent in failing to inform citizens of the dangers of identity theft as a result of a person's Social Security number being known. The suit was filed on behalf of residents of the state, and is calling for notification of identity theft dangers, as well as for compensation for those who have had to pay to have their driver's license number changed
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