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My letter to The Journal which ended up being an op-ed piece on 3/26/3...

March 16, 2003

Fairfax Journal:

I am THE one who has brought the attention to all this online records mess and I am THE one who has sent several hundred letters into King George County (Oct, 2002) and Scott, King William, and Warren (all sent out Dec. 4th, 2002). Within two days of my letters arriving, the King George Clerk's site was shut down and then within 24 hours, the other three Clerks' site were shut down because of an outcry from the citizens whose records I had gotten offline with their minor children's name and DOBs in divorce papers or Homestead Deeds; their SS#s in marriage licenses (which shouldn't even have been online but were - COV 32.1-267); SS#s on Deeds of Trust, Homestead Deeds, judgments/liens, notary commissions; mother's maiden names on the marriage licenses or name change docs; signatures on Deeds and DOTs; DOBs on marriage licenses, name change docs, state tax liens, etc. The citizens were outraged!

THE SS# is only protected when it comes to the marriage docs ---NOTHING ELSE! And the SS#s that appear on all the other docs are not protected because the State and Fed gov'ts have not seen fit to protect it from being put on the internet by the Clerks'.

You said in your editorial on 3/14/03 "These are necessary precautions to protect private individuals' privacy and to prevent identification theft. The bill also requires the court system to establish "security standards that must be followed by court clerks providing remote access to records."

As of this moment there is NO Law that prohibits the SS#s and other personal info from being put online.... Our original HB 2426 bill would have but the bill was gutted and has become worthless.

Here's how HB 2426 started out saying the SS#s and other elements would have to be taken out if a Clerk wanted to go online. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts!!!! The personal identifying info would have to come off. But the Clerks and others whined and said if they had to redact the info, it would stop the online access because they couldn't afford to go through each document and redact the elements and had no money to do it.

The bill had a slight amendment in the House :

That ungutted bill passed the House 68-29 with 2 absent and 1 abstention. Here's the House vote: (Read on my site and I tell you who's already online relative to how they voted)

Speaking against the bill was the VPA, VCOG, some Clerks, the Clerks Association, and the VA Assoc. of Broadcasters, and the VA Assoc of Realtors. (I have it all on tape.)

The bill got sent to a Senate sub-committee and there it was GUTTED (by adding paragraph or Section "D" thanks to the same above named people/groups plus a room full of others who came out in DROVES to oppose the original bill put in by Del.Nixon. Here's the GUTTED VERSION:

 Then the two floor amendments made by Bolling were made in an effort to control the records just like the DMV records where a subscriber to the DMV system has to state a purpose to get our records...(go to VIPNET's site). So it's not an unheard of idea to ask "purpose". Asking why someone wanted to see the records was merely a way to have some control over our records/lives on the internet. Afterall, I have been into about eight or so sites just in VA and you should see the SS#s I have been able to get. In Hanover County (pop. 91,000) alone there are over 35,000 SS# just sitting in those records waiting to be stolen offline while sitting in the privacy of someone's home. I have been into many states sites and it is astounding. (I kept Hanover from going online in Sept. just by getting a couple thousand people riled up - people who had an SS# on their papers!) I have been into sites in several states and it is truly astounding.

Anyway, after HB 2426 was gutted in the Senate sub-committee (read about it on my website) from there it was downhill. This bill will only drive the Clerks to have sign up and "Pay per View" sites and then they won't have to redact anything. But then again I had paid and signed up to get into Scott County (where I got Jerry and Terry Kilgore's SS#s and their parents' but the Clerk "BO" Taylor removed his own SS# and his wife's before putting two of their own separate docs up online) and King William County to get all their records ---$30 a piece because they gave me a discount. The more counties you sign up for the bigger the discount....and the irony of it all is that the $3 technology Trust Fund fee is paid by us when we record a deed or deed of trust etc. So we are footing the bill to have our own records/lives on the internet. AND TWO organizations you belong to help gut the bill.

It is a real shame that the lobbyists won out and the little guy lost. But I can say one thing is for is just giving me more time to alert the public and get more people involved. I am preparing to send letters out to another county right now...... But maybe if you won't like having your own info online you should re-think belonging to the two groups who helped destroy our bill most - VCOG and VPA. Craig Merritt who spoke on behalf of the VA Press Assoc and Frosty Landon on behalf of VCOG.

Why don't you go back and read the July 02 newsletter where on page 7 VCOG states they do not support the premise that there is anything that shouldn't be online in those records...

If the public really understood the definition of "land records" as defined in the Land Records Management Task force found on the State Compensation Board's website in the final report issued 12/1/1998, you'd have a mass uproar. But people continually mislead the public by using that term. Try using personal records/lives - not some shaded term they don't have the definition for....

Thanks for reading. I hope I have been helpful. To conclude: there is only right now ONE place the SS#s are protected and that's on marriage licenses... and they were left vulnerable for four years (from 7/1/97) before the legislature fixed and corrected that screwup.

BTW...all the localities are online with this personal info in northern VA.... You are being "sold out" up there...

Betty "BJ" Ostergren

The Virginia Watchdog 

P.S. Here's something else for you....The DGIF and VIPNET are planning on selling the hunting and fishing licensee data base, too. Read the article on my site (with links to VIP net) "Hunters to become the hunted"...They are already selling the boat registration information....

(c) 2003 Ostergren, P.C. (Page Format Only)