Mo. report chides indifference to privacy rights
Friday, October 25, 2013
By DAVID A. LIEB
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration displayed “indifference to the privacy rights” of Missourians by gathering personal information about driver’s license applicants, according to a report Friday from a legislatively appointed panel.
Most of the procedures chided by the report have already been halted, but the panel nonetheless concluded that Nixon’s administration disregarded state law by implementing them in the first place.
The report comes after a group of legislators, law enforcement officers and others appointed by House Speaker Tim Jones spent the summer holding hearings about driver’s license procedures implemented last December. Under those procedures, the state compiled a digital database of birth certificates and other personal documents shown by applicants.
The document scanning was halted in July when the Democratic governor signed a new law against it. The law had been approved by the Republican-led Legislature.
The report concludes that Missouri’s licensing procedures violated a 2009 state law that forbids state officials from taking steps to comply with the goals of the 2005 federal proof-of-identity law known as the Real ID Act. That federal law set stringent requirements for photo identification cards to be used to board commercial flights or enter federal buildings, but about half the states’ legislatures have opposed its implementation.
The report cites several state measures that it says complied with Real ID, including the scanning of documents, the acquisition of equipment to gather biometric information about people and the centralized issuance of driver’s licenses.
“By taking these actions, the executive branch has shown indifference to the privacy rights of all Missourians,” the report states.
A Nixon spokesman referred questions to the Department of Revenue, which had no immediate comment because it hadn’t reviewed the report.
While halting most of the criticized licensing procedures, the law enacted in July allowed Missouri to continue issuing its driver’s licenses through an out-of-state contractor that prints and mails them to people’s homes. The report said Missouri also should consider ending that.
“It is more efficient, secure, and beneficial to the consumers of these services to return to the local, over-the-counter issuance of identification cards,” the report said.
Officials at the Department of Revenue, which administers the driver’s license program, have said the centralized issuance saves money, and document-scanning was intended to help fright fraud. They have repeatedly said the Department of Revenue was not trying to comply with the Real ID Act, even though some of the additional security measures were similar.
“I just vehemently disagree with their interpretation,” said the panel’s chairman, Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia.
The report questions the truthfulness of administration officials. It suggests the Department of Revenue may have implemented the policies without formally changing its rules “purposely to keep this information hidden from the General Assembly and our citizens.”
It also deems “not credible” assertions by Nixon’s administration that the governor never was briefed on a policy that allowed a list of Missouri concealed guy permit holders to be shared with a federal Social Security fraud investigator. The investigator has said the list was destroyed without being used.
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