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This letter to the Editor was published in the Mechanicsville Local on April 9, 2003 and was also sent to The Virginia Watchdog for publication.
It would seem that one would have a reasonable expectation and in essence a protected demand so that when personal data is supplied to any governmental entity as a necessity of law or policy, the data would and will be used only for that intended purpose. Until last month, that was my presumption and expectation, and really my demand, if you would. I never, as most all of us rarely do, gave it a second thought.
That has changed! The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) and probably other state agencies, not to mention local and federal governmental entities, has developed a database list (including social security numbers?) and has sold/is selling it to any buyers for whatever use. A friend from Virginia Beach who is a boat registrant recently visited and wondered out loud why he had recently been solicited by saltwater vendor types. Asked and answered!
In addition, and had “they not run out of money,” DGIF was and will be doing the same and selling all hunting and fishing licensee lists. Talk about abuse of power and the public (trust) who pays their salary and to whom, indirectly they are accountable! And in state government, the Governor, the CEO of the Executive Branch, simply allows it, maybe through ignorance, but I doubt it as he is “Mr. Hi-techman”.
Talk about scary! Think worst-case scenario of how easy it will be to identify the who’s and where’s of a vast majority of gun owners and then target them for robbery or “big brother” intrusion by whoever buys/has the list. Do they think lists won’t be sold and resold or even misused? (Another scary thought for future discussion, state government is automating all things under one big agency via a public/private partnership, VIPnet or whatever it is. Are records safe/secure?)
MY response has been to cancel everything with DGIF. This is sad because I have been a big DGIF supporter since 1973. I probably have 30 complete issue years of Virginia Wildlife, have always prepaid subscriptions, have lifetime hunting and fishing licenses, buy calendars religiously, even used the tax check off, etc. I would ask for a refund on licenses if they were not required by law. As a matter of fact, where I hunt and fish mostly, I don’t need licenses. Hummm.
Their Director has told me in writing “it is not their fault, it is required by law.” I have yet to see any law that mandates selling my name and data. It might say automate. Regardless, I did not subscribe nor pay licenses fees to the General Assembly, the Governor or anyone else. I did pay to DGIF and it is they who bear the responsibility.
If you too feel their actions are inappropriate, just flat out, simply wrong, I urge you to send them a message and do the same, cancel and drop support. Unless you make your feelings and thoughts known in understandable terms, they, including most entities of government, will continue to sell and/or simply make your vital data available to anyone with a dollar or the world-wide-web for that matter. Visit www.opcva.com/watchdog to see more of what this is all about.
These practices must stop. It is our data provided for required purposes. Where it has been sold, each affected party must be legally notified and offered an “opt out”. We hear about fairness in government, what happened here? Mr. Governor, I formally opt out!
(c) 2003 Ostergren, P.C. (Page Format Only)