Bill restricts access to personal information

Congress has approved a bill that will require states to obtain drivers' permission before giving third parties access to drivers' Social Security numbers, photographs, medical conditions and other personal information.

Provisions in the fiscal 2000 Transportation Appropriations bill also requires states to get permission before releasing any information, such as names, ages and addresses, to third parties for marketing purposes.

The House approved the appropriations bill restrictions last Friday, and the Senate signed on earlier this week. The provisions will go into effect in June if President Clinton signs the bill as expected. States that do not comply risk losing federal funding for transportation projects.

Last year, three states agreed to sell license photos and other license information to Image Data LLC, but all three have backed out after intense backlash from citizens. "At one point last year, Florida, South Carolina and Colorado had agreed to sell the photos, but it caused such an uproar from citizens that everyone backed out," said Misty Blackburn, a public information specialist at the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles.

South Carolina signed a contract with Nashua, N.H.-based Image Data in January 1998 and had sold driver information from its database for the company to use, but voided the contract in March 1999 because of the problems it caused, said Sherri Iacobelli, a spokeswoman for the South Carolina DMV. More than 100,000 South Carolinians requested to "opt out" of the system before the contract was canceled.

"We got out of the contract, and they sued us," Iacobelli said. "After that, a billed was passed in the state legislature that restricted the information we can sell through the DMV, including photos, Social Security numbers, and height and weight [statistics]."

Image Data ( develops identity fraud prevention systems and has changed their system since the state contracts fell through earlier this year, said spokeswoman Lorna Christie. "We have totally revamped our technology and no longer require bulk purchasing from state databases. We want consumers to have the choice to participate in our new system," she said.

Christie said legal actions with the states and other parties are "still being resolved" but did not have specific information to offer.

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