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AN OPEN LETTER TO FLORIDA GOVERNOR JEB BUSH
Is privacy a concern to you only when it involves yours but no one else's?
December 27, 2004
I am astounded that you and Florida legislators have allowed people's personal information to be put on the Court Clerks'/Recorders' websites - personal information like social security numbers, dates of birth, signatures, etc. since you personally have - or I should say had - some documents online in Miami-Dade County which contained until today your wife's and your Social Security Numbers. I say until today because both of your SSNs have now been blacked out on your personal - albeit public records.
However, it is noted by this writer that while your SSNs have been blacked out, the SSNs of the Lopezes who bought your residence in Miami have not been blacked out. Did you order your records scrubbed of the SSNs or did the Clerk in Miami, Harvey Ruvin, just take it upon himself to protect the governor but could care less about all the other people in Miami-Dade County and their records which contain this most personal piece of information? There are millions of documents still on his site which contain those numbers. Your SSNs have been sitting there available on Ruvin's website for a long time...
I'd really like to know if privacy is just a concern to you only when it involves your own but no one else's? Why didn't Mr. Ruvin remove everyone else's SSN?
I have been trying to stop this online hemorrhaging of personal information in Virginia for almost two years and a half years; however, Virginia legislators just "don't get it" either about the all personal information contained in a Court Clerk's office since they, too, have passed bills which now require our Clerks to be online with our records. One Senator though, Jeannemarie Devolites-Davis, who has been pushing for online records was smart and had her divorce papers sealed which will keep them off the internet while most Virginians didn't even know that was a possibility so their divorce papers are currently online in about a dozen counties in Virginia complete with minor children's names, dates of birth, the new home addresses for mommy and daddy, all their SSNs, all the details of who gets the kids, who gets the minivan, who gets the Jeep, who has custody, and when visitation will be, etc!!! But hers won't see the light of day because she had hers SEALED!
Yes, the birthplace of this nation is just as stupid as the rest of the states that are putting these records online which is most of them. Some have already got the records online and some are in the process of doing it now. While records such as deeds, deeds of trust, financing statements, judgments, wills, marriage licenses, paternity papers, divorce papers, tax liens, guardianship papers, etc. are "public records", they certainly contain private information.
Some of your Clerks in Florida have on their websites (which by the way are available to "anyone" in the world) lots of records including (on certain Clerks' sites) DD-214s complete with SSNs, dates of birth, home addresses, and other military discharge information. Some even have paternity papers and divorce papers. I have MANY copies that I have downloaded/printed out from those sites. Some of your Florida Clerks also have death certificates on their sites complete with the deceased's SSN and date of birth. I have many of those, too, and if I have them, don't you think that 1) a big company who bought the "images" in bulk has them and has already sent them to INDIA or some other foreign country? Yes, it's likely! 2) Don't you think that if I can get into the records from Virginia that someone in an internet café in Sri Lanka or some other foreign country can get into them? Yes, they can! 3) Once the records are scanned the Clerk loses control after they get out to the world. That's true, too! 4) And don't you know that once the images are scanned, "ANYONE" can come in and buy them in BULK? YES! And that is exactly what is happening!
Yes, Governor Bush, your SSN and your wife's were online but you and your Clerk have left your fellow Floridians records to hang out to dry so to speak. The legislators in your state and you have put your fellow Floridians records at risk, but you have now protected your own butt/records - or at least someone did for you since your wife's and your SSNs have now been blacked out.
What I'd like to know, though, is WHY when you have always had a copy of those documents in Miami-Dade County (since it was the deed to your house) that you didn't realize your Social Security number and your wife's (Columba's) were printed in full view on the document found in Book 18703 Page 3991 and that this would be available on the internet thanks to this hare-brained idea of online records? Why when this site has been up for sometime didn't you realize it before now? Didn’t you ever look at your own deed? It took you a long time to care about your own but now will you care about other people's records with SSNs on them?
You and your wife also had to sign the document found in BK 18703 Page 3993 when you sold your house and it is on that document that Leonardo Lopez, Jr.'s and Cynthia E. Lopez's SSNs are in the first paragraph but I see no one went in and protected their SSNs!!! Their SSNs are still in full view as of this date on the Miami-Dade website found at http://www.miami-dadeclerk.com/dadecoc/ simply by clicking on SEARCH RECORDED DOCUMENTS in the blue column on the left. You have enabled identity thieves and it's easy to understand why mortgage fraud is rampant in your state as I recently read in the newspapers. Again, now will you start to care about other people's records and not just your own?
I’ll make a wager that 99.99999999999% of your citizens down there don't realize that you and your legislature have allowed this online records scheme to take place. I have called or emailed many people in Florida from Sheriffs to Deputies to people running for office to ordinary "Joe Citizens" whose records I have a copy of which contain their SSNs and other personal information - not to mention signatures. They had no clue this scheme is taking place and they are angry but feel powerless. They are shocked that their legislators would sell them out and do this to them by allowing their records to leave the four walls of the Clerks' offices where most people won't go during the day since most people work and won't take time off to go snooping.
Word will eventually spread about this and people will discover what is going on not only in Florida but all over this country. Even here in Virginia we have millions of documents available to identity thieves via the internet but so far only in about a dozen localities. The records are a veritable treasure trove of SSNs! You have to sign up and pay a fee to get into the Virginia sites, but so what! When it is discovered that these online sites contain gazillions of SSNs, people will realize it is worth it to sign up and pay the fee. One person can sign up and then invite all their "friends" over to their house to use their computer/password to mine for those minor children's names, mother's maiden names, financial account numbers, SSNs, DOBs - AND SIGNATURES! Signatures can be captured right off a computer screen and then used in any document by anyone.
It is truly disappointing that this is going on, but it is only fair while millions of your fellow citizens' records are still online that yours be online, too, in its original version. So here is one PUBLIC RECORD of yours which I am now showing the world. It seems no one is listening about how dangerous this online records scheme is so maybe thru your PUBLIC RECORD and some others like yours including the new CIA Director's who was a former Congressman from Lee County, Florida (Porter J. Goss') and a second Goss record, and also Colin Powell's, maybe people will wake up and demand that their legislators keep these records in the confines of the Clerk's offices and off the internet. And how about that Secretary of State's site where there are thousands of SSNs, there for the taking?
Just think of how many people have looked at your documents and the above people's documents since they are in general circulation. In Fairfax County, VA, the Circuit Court Clerk, John Frey, has over 1,100 subscribers paying $25 a month to access over 26 million records he took an oath to protect. Think how many people have looked up Colin Powell's documents online from their home or office. He's a retired General and presently Secretary of State and I'd think - like you and Director Goss - he would have known better than to sign a document that he knew was going to "record" which had his and his wife's SSNs on it. But back in the early 90's, no one gave a thought to these records being put on the internet. No one had any idea - or even thought - they would eventually one day leave the practical obscurity they enjoyed in the Clerks offices - that is until the World Wide Web came into existence…
Governor, you can only remove your SSN from the documents on one site - Miami-Dade; however, there are over 22,800 public record and background check sites - any of which could have copies of your documents by now.
Our elected officials were elected to protect us and these records, but they haven't. They took oaths, but apparently the oath meant nothing. They swore to GOD but it means nothing.
On behalf of all Floridians and the rest of my fellow countrymen who object to having our lives plastered on the internet, I remain,
Betty "BJ" Ostergren,
The Virginia Watchdog