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Law restricts access to driving, hunting, business license records

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    NMU         WISCONSIN         Freedom of Information         Apr 27, 2000    

Law restricts access to driving, hunting, business license records

  • A new law, enacted in response to the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, keeps state agencies from releasing names and addresses from state license applications.

Gov. Tommy Thompson signed into law on April 24 a measure that will restrict access to personal information contained in many state records.

Meant to frustrate telemarketers, data brokers and direct-mail advertisers, the law does not allow state agencies to release the name and address of a person who has applied for a state-issued license for driving, hunting, fishing or doing business if that person has expressed a desire to keep his or her identity secret.

The law allows people seeking state-issued licenses and permits to check off a box on their applications if they want to keep their name and address confidential. The law also prevents state agencies from releasing the names and addresses of more than 10 applicants at a time.

“State residents should not have to worry about losing a part of their privacy when they do business with the state,” Thompson said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We need to make sure more personal information of Wisconsin residents stays private.”

Supporters of the law say it will still allow journalists access to driving-record and other information, albeit on a smaller scale than before. An official with the Wisconsin Newspaper Association told the Journal Sentinel that the organization ended up supporting the law, in part, because its so-called “opt-out” provision was not as restrictive as the alternative, an “opt-in” provision that would have allowed state agencies to release information only about those people who had expressly given their consent, which in effect would have foreclosed access to almost all state-collected information about drivers and others.

The original version of the law applied only to the state Department of Transportation, but the state Senate amended it to include the departments of Natural Resources and Regulation and Licensing.

The law was passed in response to the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994, which requires states to restrict public access to driver’s license information. In January, The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the DPPA as a proper exercise of congressional power.

(Act 88)

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