Ostergren Wins Case to Allow Publication of Social Security Numbers
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday ruled that privacy advocate B.J. Ostergren may post public records that contain social security numbers on her website, despite a 2008 Virginia law that forbids it.
The ruling reaffirmed a District Judge’s decision that Ostergren, on her website, has the right to post the Social Security numbers of Virginia legislators, executive officers and clerks of court, whenever the numbers were obtained from a government website accessible to the public.
Willis: This case is a little ironic.
ACLU Executive Director Kent Willis says Ostregren used the First Amendment argument to embarrass legislators to fix a law with significant leaks.
Willis: If the government puts something on a website and makes it public, it can't then tell you what to do with it and not to do with it. That is public information and that's a basic First Amendment right.
Under that law, all land records were available on the Internet; they included deeds and mortgage information, legal judgments, divorce decrees, even Social Security numbers. Willis says the legislature has moved to stop some of the privacy leaks, but:
Willis: We're a long way from it being a done deal, but we've made a lot of progress.
Charles Fishburne, WCVE News