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Email BJ Ostergren, Founder of The Virginia Watchdog

BJ's back and with the most important issue that involves our lives...Privacy.   Here's how this issue all got started...

Clerks of Circuit Courts have put - or will be putting - people's personal information on the internet with the blessings of the Virginia General Assembly.   In the 1997 Session of the General Assembly, every Senator and every Delegate voted to allow our records/lives to be put on the internet (HB 2762) and in 14 localities in Virginia this has already been done!  Some counties have had this stuff on the internet for several years but the citizens aren't aware of it to this day. Some Clerks have refused to go online and some haven't had the money.  All of our lives WILL be put on the internet - it's just a matter of time unless all Virginia citizens get active in this issue and put the pressure on our current legislators to come to their senses.

We (including children) are all being set up for identity theft which is THE fastest growing crime but yet no one appears to want to stop it at the General Assembly level. It's a big money maker for lots of people (in lots of ways) and it pits the private citizen against the money-donating groups/lobbyists - in particular the Virginia Coalition for Open Government (VCOG) whose membership includes almost every Virginia newspaper and media outlet.  They have never spoken out before any committee where legislation has been heard/discussed and said not to go online with the records because they contain millions and millions of SSNs and other personal information.  The Virginia Watchdog have tapes to prove it.   

VCOG thinks its okay to put children's names and their dates of birth which are in final divorce decrees and Homestead Deeds online.  And they think it's okay to put Social Security numbers which are in various recorded documents like final divorce decrees, Deeds of Trust, Homestead Deeds, judgments/liens, financing statements/UCCs, etc.), marriage licenses with everything on them (full legal name, DOBs, place of birth, mothers' maiden names), and our SIGNATUREs - all online! In their group's July, 2002 newsletter article entitled Keep Digital Court Records Open, they state "The coalition did not support the premise that some of the information that might be available at the courthouse might be "inappropriate" for remote access (i.e., over the Internet). (VCOG July, 02 newsletter ).   

Inappropriate means - in most peoples' books - someone's personal identifying information, children's names, signature, mother's maiden name, and date of birth, but not to that group who has been one of the driving forces behind the legislation which allows the records to go on the internet!

The Hanover County, VA Circuit Court Clerk, Frank Hargrove, Jr. was ready to go on line in September, 2002 with most of our records (marriage licenses though weren't going to be put online because they are for "gossip purposes," according to the Clerk), but the citizens stopped it after they found out about it.  Articles and letters to the editor in the Mechanicsville Local helped spread the word and so did a telephone tree.  The Clerk is the son of  Del. Frank Hargrove, Sr.

King George County, King William County, Scott County, and Warren County were all taken off line after several hundred letters were sent into EACH County by BJ Ostergren advising them their signatures, Social Security numbers, children's names, dates of birth, account numbers, and mother's maiden names were on various documents placed on the internet by their Clerks.  And in King William County, the Clerk foolishly left the Social Security numbers on the marriage licenses violating Code of Virginia Section 32.1-267 and she also had "sealed" court documents online!

The legislators should rectify their own mistake in allowing this mess in the first place and STOP IT NOW!  Leave the records in the record books in the Clerks' offices available during working hours Monday- Friday!

The citizens are the ones being "sold out"...

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