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States move to stop sales of driver's license photos

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States move to stop sales of driver's license photos 02/08/99 ROUNDUP--Three states' sale of driver's license photos to a New…

States move to stop sales of driver’s license photos

02/08/99

ROUNDUP–Three states’ sale of driver’s license photos to a New Hampshire company have come under fire.

After media reports sparked public outcry, officials in South Carolina, Florida and Colorado are seeking to void contracts they signed with Image Data LLC which enabled the company to purchase the states’ entire driver’s record databases, including photos. The company sells the images to retailers who use the database to prevent retail fraud.

In late January, South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon filed suit in state court in Columbia seeking to void the state’s contract with Image Data. Under the contract, Image Data purchased 3.5 million driver’s license photos from the state for $5,000.

Condon’s complaint alleges that the sale violates the privacy provisions of the state constitution which prohibit unreasonable invasions of privacy by the state. He also challenges the constitutionality of two state statutes authorizing the sale of driver’s license images or digitized images to information brokers.

Condon asked the court to declare the statutes unconstitutional, rescind the contract and recover the data from the broker.

Ironically, Condon was the driving force behind the state’s recent successful challenge to the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, which seeks to regulate the state’s dissemination of driver’s license information. In that case, he argued that the Supreme Court has never found a federal constitutional right of privacy in driver’s license information.

“Everyone figured Charlie Condon didn’t care about privacy, but [when he learned of the contract] he came down hard on the state for violating its own constitution,” attorney general’s spokesman Tom Landess said.

In early February, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush directed the state motor vehicle department to terminate its contract with Image Data. The Florida legislature is then expected to reconsider its adoption of a statute last year permitting the sale of photos to prevent retail fraud.

“I am personally not comfortable with the state mandating license photos for the purpose of identifying authorized drivers and then selling those photos at a profit for a completely different purpose,” Bush said in a press release.

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens is also considering as-of-yet unspecified action, Dick Wadhams, the governor’s press secretary said. Colorado has already transferred names and other personal data, but it has yet to transfer photos, Wadhams said.

The governor is examining the strength of the contract with Image Data and whether a legislative solution is possible, he said. (Condon v. Image Data LLC)