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In the 2003 General Assembly session, when HB 2426 was making its way thru the House and Senate, the bill was overwhelmingly passed in the House (my delegate Frank Hargrove of Hanover County and others voted against this worthwhile bill on its first go round in the House).  NOTE: After the bill was "gutted" then Delegate Hargrove voted for it...

The bill was thoroughly trashed and made totally worthless in the Virginia Senate thanks to Sen. Edd Houck and Sen. Frank Wagner but mostly to Sen. Jay O'Brien of Fairfax - all three protecting "special interests" like the Virginia Press Association (whose lobbyist, Craig Merritt, said he didn't care who read his divorce papers), the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, AmCad (a company who is profiting off these records), LexisNexis (also profiting off these records), and also the Virginia Circuit Court Clerks' Association who had their highly paid lobbyist there.  The Fairfax County Circuit Court Clerk, John Frey, was there during a committee hearing making his case for online records - since his office is making a fortune off selling access (to ANYONE) to over 25,000,000 records in his office for $25 a month.  (NOTE: he has over 1,100 subscribers to his records.)

The "compromise" that was reached in the VA Senate in 2003 (here's the SENATE vote on HB 2426) was the addition of Paragraph D (1) - shown below with the Senate floor amendments - which says:

D. This section shall not apply to the following: (Editorial Note: This means that what was protected in paragraph A now loses that protection if these paragraph D1 requirements are met.)

1. Providing remote access to any document by means of a network or system that is certified by the Department of Technology Planning to be secure and to provide for restricted access pursuant to security standards developed in consultation with the circuit court clerks, the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court, the Compensation Board, interested citizens, and users of land and other court records. Such standards shall include, but not be limited to, a requirement, as a precondition for access, for registration by users in person or by means of a notarized or otherwise sworn application that establishes the prospective user's identity, purpose of access, business or residence address, and citizenship status;

(NOTE: Before the Governor, Mark Warner, signed this bill he struck the "purpose of access" clause since it violates the Freedom of Information Act.)

But ANYONE can sign up since we are talking about PUBLIC RECORDS and then the legitimate user can let ANYONE ELSE use their password (or their computer) since who would be the wiser!  Or someone might steal a legitimate users ID and Password.   Since we don't have HOME COMPUTER POLICE...yet... then the records containing tens of thousands and thousands of SSNs, DOBs, Mother's maiden names, minor children's names, SIGNATURES, and financial acc't #s are still at risk. 

What happened to LexisNexis recently is exactly what I have been saying would happen to the Clerk's records!  Someone got hold of a legitimate user's password and ID to get into the records and have put over 32,000 people's names, addresses, AND SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS at risk!  

In VA right now there are only about 12 Clerks out of about 125 who have put their records online for "remote access," but by 7/1/2006, every Clerk will have to be online with the millions of records they hold!  The records they took an oath to protect!  Why?  Because some special interests want them online!  So for the benefit of a few, let's put everyone's records at risk!  That's what some people want...

In other states, the records are online (for free in most places) or are being prepared to go online.  And California's records are being sold by a company in Houston, TX because they were able to buy them in BULK and then re-sell them!

So will anyone have to dumpster dive, dig in the neighbor's trash, or hack into any site to have access to MILLIONS of SSNs in the Clerks' websites?  NO! NO ! NO!

Thanks to the folks who have done virtually nothing to protect the SSNs and other personal information like the Virginia Coalition for Open Government (VCOG) whose membership is made up of almost every newspaper in VA.  I have the tapes of EVERY meeting or committee hearing I have attended over the last 2 1/2 years and they have always advocated to have these records online in their entirety.  They're "public records" they say. And yes, they are, but should they really be accessed from someone's/ANYONE's home who can dig in them 24/7?!?!?   That's called spoon feeding criminals because eventually criminals will realize how easy it is to go into a Clerk's site legally... and in some states, they are wide open and FREE!  But signing up doesn't keep that information safe as everyone is finding out thanks to ChoicePoint and LexisNexis fiascoes...

When HB 2426 was going thru the legislature in 2003,  VCOG Executive Director Forrest "Frosty" Landon spoke against the bill because his group wants the Circuit Court Clerks' records online.  He opposed the one bill (HB 2426) that could have stopped all this online records mess.  Why?  Because he and his group (and he represents his group) want your personal papers on the internet for "remote access"!   But people who want to see those records should have to drive to the courthouse to see them!!!  (Watch the CBS video from 2/18/05 with The Virginia Watchdog in it and he is in it also...the link is found on the front page of this site.)

Did VCOG really think that the "pay per view" subscription scheme would work?  Not once in any meeting did Frosty Landon say "hey, maybe we should stop and think about all the SSNs in those records and slow this train down."  No.. because his group believes your "LAND RECORDS" (deeds, mortgage papers, wills, judgments/liens, final divorce decrees, etc.) are the "government records" and they want all records available online.  But they, the VA Press Association, LexisNexis, AmCad, the Clerks themselves (thru their membership in the Clerks' Association), some title searchers, some real estate attorneys, and the major data brokers who buy this information and then re-sell it all want your personal records online. 

And right now anyone can also go into the VA Supreme Court's Executive Clerk's office in downtown Richmond, VA and BUY millions of Social Security numbers because they are selling TAPES of Virginia General District Court records to ANYONE like LexisNexis who wants to buy them...all under the guise of the VA Freedom of Information Act.  But why should people's DOBs, SSNs, names and addresses be sold in bulk?  Why isn't there a law to prohibit bulk sales of these records? 

And why isn't there a law to stop the VA Division of Game and Inland Fisheries from selling hunters' and fishermen's information.  Yes, for each $150 you pay, you can buy up to 2,500 hunters' and fishermen's information.  And for each $50 ANYONE pays, they can buy 2,500 boat owners' information including all the information on the owner, the boat, the engine, the lien holder and how much the boat costs and where it's kept/docked.  (The contract setting forth this...)

The citizens of this state are being sold out everyday.  But then's happening in every state. 

DO something!  Make this an issue in this year's VA elections (every Delegate is up for re-election) since it's apparent that most of our present legislators don't seem to care because they are caving into "special interests."

Here's a link to the email addresses for VA Senators:

Here's a link to the email addresses for VA Delegates

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