THE VIRGINIA WATCHDOG
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09/21/07 - UPDATE: 1800 hrs EDT... The Secretary of State does not like having his SSN or his wife's published on this site. However, Sec. Browning should not forget that the PUBLIC record we show here as an example of a public record containing SSNs is (or at least was) available on the Pasco County, Florida Court Clerk's website for the world to see. Also anyone can get the same record thru a visit to the Pasco Court Clerk's office. There were actually two records with their SSNs on them on the Clerk's website, but we only published one record. This afternoon, Browning's legal staff has threatened criminal prosecution of The Virginia Watchdog's founder, BJ Ostergren, for publishing a public record. However, we take his counsel's threats as harassment and as an attempt to strip away our First Amendment rights to freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Stay tuned. For more examples of records that we have collected, click here. See Jeb Bush's and others'. Many millions of people have been put at risk in Florida alone with this online records fiasco but most people don't have a clue that these records are even online and available to ANYONE with a computer... It's happening all over this country. Elected officials and others in possession of public records like UCCs and Deeds are also spoon feeding criminals when they put the records online. We'd like to hear from you. Do you think that it's fair to bring attention to the Brownings' record since he still allows SSNs on his UCC search site? Email us.
09/21/07 - Florida Secretary of State, Kurt S. Browning continues to show people's SSNs on the UCCs that come under his control on the search site, so on behalf of everyone whose SSN is still available on that site, we have decided it is time to publish a public record (a deed) which belongs to him and his wife, Kathy Jones Browning, showing their SSNs. (Click here and it will come up as a PDF file.)
The Virginia Watchdog's BJ Ostergren has made many phone calls and had conversations with people in the Florida Secretary of State's office about Social Security Numbers (SSNs) being publicly available on UCCs also called financing statements. The UCCs now come under direct control of Sec. Kurt Browning who was chosen by Gov. Charlie Crist in December of 2006. (NOTE: The Florida SOS used to be elected until 2002 when changes were made in FL's constitution. Katherine "hanging chads" Harris was the last elected SOS there.)
Ostergren contacted the SOS' office years ago about this and nothing was ever done. No SSNs were removed. The site should have been shut down until people were protected, but it wasn't.
A couple of years ago she spoke to Jay Kassees who is in charge of the UCC documents. He said they had no money for blacking out the SSNs so the records remained open to the world and Ostergren continued downloading records with SSNs on them.
Follow-up phone calls were made to the SOS' office by Ostergren as SSNs continued to remain available to the world on that site. She again reached Kassees who remembered previous conversations with her and he advised her that ALL social security numbers would be removed by February 28th, 2007. He said the office had gone to the legislature and they had gotten money in the budget to do redaction (blacking out) of the SSNs. They knew they had hundreds of thousands on the site. Ostergren estimated they had over a million SSNs on the site, but it really would be impossible to tell the exact number.
February 28, 2007 came and went and all the SSNs were not removed, so Ostergren called Kassees again on March 2. Kassees advised her that their vendor told them ALL social security numbers were removed. He said that he had paid his vendor for a completed job and told his bosses that mission was accomplished! (Sound familiar?) During the telecon he got his whole staff on the speaker phone and Ostergren proved to him that they had failed...miserably. Kassees said he would get the company to go thru the records again and that all numbers "would be removed." They weren't.
A couple months or so after that call on March 2, Ostergren checked the site again and found SSNs still there on many records. This time she called Sec. Browning's office direct and spoke to a woman in the SOS' office who she told about the situation. Ostergren later received a call from Dawn Roberts who is an Assistant Sec. of State in Florida. They discussed the issue for about an hour and Ostergren AGAIN proved that SSNs were still available to ANYONE with a computer from anywhere in the world.
Again, nothing apparently has been done since a check this morning (9/21/07) still shows SSNs on the search site. A phone call was made again to the SOS' office. A woman who had spoken to Ostergren previously remembered her complaints about the open availability of the SSNs on the UCC search site. Ostergren told her this article would be written and that it had come to this - if the Sec. of State is hell bent on showing people's SSNs, then his and his wife's are here for the world to see on his own PUBLIC records. But the SOS in Florida is not the only state official spoon feeding criminals by putting records online complete with SSNs. The Clerks of Court/Recorders are also doing it. One Clerk in Florida even has people's Driver's license numbers and car license plate numbers on his site plus a description of the person and their DOB.
Redaction of SSNs was supposed to have been completed in Florida by Jan 1, 2007 but the legislature as of this spring has voted to give the Clerks until Jan 1, 2011 to complete redaction. Until then, help yourselves. These state and county sites are a veritable treasure trove of SSNs. In Virginia, ALL Circuit Court Clerks have to have "remote" access to IMAGES of our records by July 1, 2008 IF THEY TOOK THE TECHNOLOGY TRUST FUND MONEY. However, in a foolish move in the 2007 legislative session, the Virginia General Assembly in all its wisdom has given the Clerks until July 1, 2010 to remove or black out SSNs only. And we expect that date to be pushed further in the future as Florida has done.
Children's names, mother's maiden names, dates of birth, signatures, and financial account numbers will remain visible to anyone who wants to get into one of these sites since the law says the records SHALL be open to EVERYONE (COV 17.1-208).
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