Monday, August 25, 2008

Va. privacy advocate gets partial win in SSN postings case

Some great news to report! BJ Ostergren, otherwise known as the Virginia Watchdog, "who challenged a Virginia law against posting Social Security numbers on the Internet won a partial victory Friday when a federal judge ruled her Internet postings are protected by the Constitution." While this is a victory, it falls just short of the "whole enchilada", as the judge did not overturn the law that inspired this case (which bans the public from publishing the same information that the government was posting)

You can read my initial post on the details of this case here.

I'm sure I'll post more on this victory in the coming days, but for now, let's get to the decision.

The AP Reports:

On her site, Ostergren has posted public documents — primarily land records — containing the Social Security numbers of prominent people and court officials. Her purpose is to demonstrate that government has failed to protect individuals' privacy. She claimed in her lawsuit that government can't publish the information and then punish citizens for distributing it.

Payne agreed, saying Ostergren's activities were protected by the First Amendment.

"It is difficult to imagine a more archetypal instance of the press informing the public of government operations through government records than Ostergren's posting of public records to demonstrate the lack of care being taken by the government to protect the private information of individuals," Payne wrote.


Kent Willis, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Virginia, said the judge recognized the new law as censorship. The ACLU represents Ostergren in the lawsuit.

"In the end, it appears this law was passed not for the purpose of protecting Social Security numbers but to silence a critic of the state's failure to protect such numbers from identity thieves," Willis said.

Click here to read more.

No comments: