Court Says Activist Protected In Republishing Social Security Numbers That Virginia Revealed On Its Website

from the maybe-time-to-fix-the-problem... dept

Two years ago, we wrote about an absolutely ridiculous situation in Virginia, where the state regularly published government documents online without redacting anyone's social security numbers. Betty "BJ" Ostergren felt that this was a huge privacy violation, and in order to highlight it, she set up a website that displayed the documents that exposed social security numbers from documents published by the state on its website -- including the SSNs of various Virginia public officials. Now, there are plenty of ways government officials in Virginia could respond. A good one would be to start being more careful about not revealing people's social security numbers. But that's not what it did. Instead, it passed a new law that would fine people like Ostergren for republishing the information, even though it was the government itself who made the social security numbers public in the first place!

Ostergren, with the help of the ACLU, sued, saying that such a law was unconstitutional. A district court agreed, but only said it was okay for Ostergren to publish SSNs of public officials. However, now, an appeals court has gone even further and said that Ostergren had the right to republish SSNs of others, beyond just Virginia public officials. Basically, the court effectively says that Virginia should be redacting the SSN information, and it's ridiculous to punish Ostergren (or others) for simply pointing out what the government is publishing.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Jul 28th, 2010 @ 5:24am

    If matters are clear enough, courts have at least

    even chances of deciding right. -- But notice that the administration part is dead set *against* obvious sense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    BPcares, Jul 28th, 2010 @ 7:18am

    How much moneys would you say they've spent on writing this document and making it official?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Pixelation, Jul 28th, 2010 @ 7:38am

    I can't believe there is a law out there that the politicians/ lawyers haven't screwed yet. It boogers my mind.

    Wait for it. They will get to this one very soon.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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