The Utah state legislature has a split personality when it comes to protecting Utahn’s personal information. On the one hand, it passes laws to protect personal information. On the other hand, it sells that same information and more.
For example, during the 2012 session, a bill originated in the Senate that makes voters’ e- mail addresses a protected record. That bill passed both the House and Senate and was signed by the governor. Thus, Utah voters can be assured that their e-mail addresses will never be made public by the state.
However, when that same bill was amended in the House to protect voters’ birth dates along with their e-mail addresses, the Senate refused to accept the amendment and insisted that voters’ birth dates (month, day, year) continue to be made available to the public—along with their full names, addresses and phone numbers.
Then, when the House passed a stand-alone bill that would have given voters’ the right to prevent the state from releasing their birth dates to the public, the Senate with strong support from the Lt. Governor’s office, killed it. Therefore, a voter’s birth date and other personal information continue to be public records and the Senate and Lt. Governor’s action effectively disenfranchises citizens who are not willing to make their personal information a public record.
In addition, the legislature, led by the Senate and by the Lt. Governor’s office, facilitates identity theft and other crimes such as stalking and targeting senior citizens for scams.
Now (2013), Representative Steve Handy brings forth a bill ( HB79 ) to remove home addresses from vehicle registration and proof of auto insurance forms. According to Handy, HB79 is “about identity theft and protecting identities….If we can protect our identities a little and slow down the criminal element just a little, this is a small, little thing that could have ramifications.”
However, at the same time Handy is removing the home address from some motor vehicle documents in order to protect citizens from identity theft and other crimes, the state continues to sell the addresses of millions of registered voters and throws in their telephone numbers and full birth dates for good measure.
During committee discussion of HB79, Representative Janice Fisher said “The fewer people who have my address, the better I like it.” However, she does not run a bill to stop the state from selling her personal information or that of her constituents.
Speaking in support of HB79, Representative Dixon Pitcher noted that “identity thieves are getting better and more sophisticated and they will use anything to get data.” However, like Representative Fisher, he does nothing to stop the state from providing identity thieves and other criminals with the personal data of millions of Utah’s registered voters in an easy to use, sortable format that facilitates those who target vulnerable senior citizens.
In response to a question from Representative David Lifferth, Utah Commissioner of Public Safety, Lance Davenport told the committee that there was no law enforcement reason for addresses to appear on documents normally kept in vehicles. Davenport also said that motorists could black out the addresses on existing documents. However, Lifferth did not ask the Commissioner what he thought about the practice of the state selling this same information.
During his summation, Handy reiterated that HB79 is a small bill that could have ramifications for identity theft. He also encouraged members of the media to warn people about the dangers of leaving documents with their addresses in their cars. However, he failed ask the media to tell people that when they register to vote, they are authorizing the state to sell their names, addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth to everyone from the AARP to international scam artists and identity thieves.
Suggestions for protecting your personal information:
- Do not register to vote since the state of Utah and its political subdivisions will immediately sell your name, address, telephone number and date of birth (month, day, year).
- Call your legislators and the Lt. Governors office (801-538-1000 or 1-800-995-VOTE). Tell them to stop selling voter information that facilitates identity theft, expedites scams targeting senior citizens and that endangers the victims of domestic violence and others who need to keep their addresses confidential.
- If you are a registered voter:
- Cancel your registration and ask the voter registrar to purge your record from the database in order to prevent state and county voting offices from continuing to sell your personal information.
- Assume that the state of Utah and its political subdivisions have already sold your personal information to people wishing to steal your identity, to access your financial accounts, to scam you if you are a senior citizen and to locate you if you are a person who is trying to hide your address and/or phone number and take appropriate precautions.
- If your car is broken into, assume that your home is now at risk of break in and take steps to protect it. Even if you have removed your address from motor vehicle documents you are still vulnerable since anyone with a state provided voter list can use it to help find where you live and to call to make sure you are not home.
- Constantly monitor credit reports, financial and other records for indications of identity theft and fraud.
- If you are a senior citizen, be aware that scammers have all of the information they need to specifically target you.
- Call Governor Herbert and thank the state of Utah for selling your personal information to help junk mailers and callers make sure you receive specifically target materials and offers for your age group and financial situation. Then ask them to stop selling your personal information.