Hampton Virginia is butt naked
(Scroll for updates…) I don’t mean disrobed. I mean that the residents of Hampton, VA are all naked and wide open to identity thieves and secret data brokers. Why? Apparently, your sensitive data is being made available to anyone by your city government.
I just got a call from an intrepid citizen in Hampton that was doing some searching for data on a public computer in a city office. He told me came across a huge set of sensitive data he was able to easily pull up without any effort. I don’t want to say right now which city office it is because I don’t want any unsavory types to take advantage of this. But you can sit down at one of their public computer terminals easily see screens filled with people’s full name, address, social security number, and the same data for their spouses if they have one. (I coincidentally wrote about this broader issue today)
If you’re reading this blog then you probably know what the risk is if someone gets your name, address and SSN. But allow me to restate the obvious. Someone could rack up thosands of dollars in credit card debt, get a lease, get employment, leave you with tax debt, screw up your social security benefits, destroy your credit score, make you get fired, prevent you from getting a job or buying a house, and cause you to spend thousands of hours and dollars to fix the problem. And the problems can linger for years and years.
If you don’t live in Hampton, VA don’t feel too smug. It is clear that thousands of cities, counties and states make your personal identifying information easily available by computer or the internet. Part of the reason is that there are laws that require them to make information publicly available. And those laws don’t necessarily say they must protect your sensitive data. As I wrote, we now need laws that will require government to remove sensitive data before making it publicly available (redaction).
Update 7/11: Yesterday, I contacted BJ Ostergren, “The Virginia Watchdog,” and what she told me is that it appears the city of Hampton is in violation of Virginia law. She is talking to people there today to get this stopped. Here is BJ’s report:
The interesting thing is that the gov't agency (the Treasurer and the Commissioner of the revenue) has compiled this information from "TAX" RECORDS and that information is PROTECTED UNDER THE LAW. There should be a class action suit filed like the one I caused in Ohio, but that was for posting UCCs which had SSNs on them; however, in that case the UCC IS a public record. This system of information in Hampton is not supposed to be public which is showing everyone's SSN. Some of it can be like the person's name, address, amount of taxes....but not that SSN.
There is a law that forbids what is going on in Hampton, Va to happen and it's found in the Virginia Gov't Data Collections and Dissemination Practices Act (formerly called the Privacy Protection Act of 1976 -Tom) which starts with Code of Virginia Section 2.2-3800. Some one in Hampton has screwed up BIG TIME.
§ 2.2-3808.1. Agencies' and court clerks' disclosure of certain account information prohibited. Notwithstanding Chapter 37 (§ 2.2-3700 et seq.) of this title or § 2.2-3802, it shall be unlawful for any agency or court clerk to disclose the social security number or other identification numbers appearing on driver's licenses or information on credit cards, debit cards, bank accounts, or other electronic billing and payment systems that was supplied to an agency or a court clerk for the purpose of paying fees, fines, taxes, or other charges collected by such agency or court clerk. The prohibition shall not apply where disclosure of such information is required (i) to conduct or complete the transaction for which such information was submitted or (ii) by other law or court order.
BJ goes on to say it also appears to be a violation Virginia code 58.14–3 related to taxation and privacy of that infrormation.