House committee approves Hayes’ bill to protect public employees from ID theft
The House Government Operations and Elections Committee approved a bill today that would exempt public employees' driver's license numbers and identicard numbers from being released for public inspection and copying.
Prime sponsor of House Bill 2376, Rep. Dave Hayes, said public employees are at risk of becoming victims of identity theft because much of their personal information can be openly released through the state's Public Records Act.
“I introduced this bill at the request of several Washington State Lottery employees who were targeted by an inmate at the Thurston County Jail. While he sat in lock-up, this inmate made requests for state Lottery employee driver's license numbers using the Public Records Act,” said Hayes, R-Camano Island. “I'm pretty sure he was up to no good with this records request. In fact, he even offered, in a letter to his friends, to have them join him and split any profits.”
According to the Washington Attorney General's Office, as many as one in five Washingtonians become victims of identity theft annually. Victims lose an average of $17,000 while their credit ratings are destroyed. And Washington ranks 17th in the nation per capita for ID theft.
“The information available about our public employees through the Public Records Act could potentially unlock a gold mine for identity thieves. If the person who requests the information is turned down, he or she could sue the state and be awarded a monetary settlement. So this could be a very lucrative business for criminals,” added Hayes, who is also a law enforcement officer. “There's little downside for an inmate behind bars to use that time to obtain these records. And there's little protection of privacy for public employees whose information is on record awaiting a public records request.”
Certain information is already exempt from public records requests, such as the residential addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, emergency contact information and Social Security numbers of public employees. Hayes' bill would expand that to prevent disclosure of driver's license numbers and identicard numbers.
“Identity theft is becoming rampant, as we know with the 100 million Target shoppers whose information was compromised over Black Friday. The profits are large.Thieves can operate from their own homes and successfully hide behind their computers,” noted Hayes. “This legislation is a way to protect the privacy of our public employees' sensitive information and prevent that information from getting into the wrong hands.”
The measure now goes to the House Rules Committee for further consideration.
###Washington State House Republican Communications