I considered myself to be fairly cautious in the management of my personal information. I taught classes on ID-Theft, burned/shredded papers, and preached the same to others. This post is for everyone out there that may have some sense of false security in their personal information and what can be obtained from a few keystrokes on the internet. Take a moment to educate yourself on a real concern with far-reaching hazards for all of us.
As a peace officer I wanted to take advantage of the local appraisal district's confidentiality form to keep my name off the roll search in their website. Makes sense, right? It sounded great until a fellow peace officer told me to sign up at Publicdata.com to allay any sense of security I had in my personal information. I understand Publicdata.com is one of many websites that provide information to anyone with a credit card willing to pay about $10.00 per month. Here is one way business by any villain can be done using Publicdata.com:
1. I see you driving down the road in a car with a Texas license plate. I note the license plate number and run it in Publicdata.com to find the registered owner's name and address; and all vehicles with their respective registration information registered to that address.
2. Now that I have the registered owner's information and address, I search the driver's license section in the same website to find the registered owner's driver's license number which includes the license number, licensee address, date of birth, and a link to all other persons who also have driver's licenses with your address.
3. Now that I have your entire adult family identified by name, address, dob, license number, and cars registered to your address, I can go to the other links on the website and search your voter registration cards, professional license information, and the like to help triangulate any information I am not certain about.
4. If I want to check your criminal history (something potentially illegal where I work), it is merely a few keystrokes on the same website.
All of this for $10.77 per month charged to a credit card.
Moral to the Story: Don't have a false sense of security in any type of information management relating to who you are, where you live, what you drive, and what you do. All anyone needs to track you down is a little time and persistence in this information age we live in.
Solution: The TDCAA is full of brainiacs a lot smarter than me with bigger and better resources. If there is legislation, suit, resources, etc. that can be started with this seed of information toward change, please make it so.
A waterfall starts with a drop of water.
Along these lines, I would like to add an incident that happened this week. A commissioned peace officer at my agency was sued for an on-the-job traffic accident. The plaintiff's petition alleged the officer's home address and last four digits of social security number.
Has anyone else encountered this? Is it improper?
What is improper about identifying someone's home address in a lawsuit? That happens all the time. I did it with every lawsuit that I have ever filed when I was in private practice, even if I was going to have them served at work. I can't explain why the last 4 of the SSN was mentioned other than, possibly the cop has a common last name (like "Smith") or something and the plaintiff just wanted to be safe by fully identifying the defendant. I sometimes used their DL # and DOB.
Mind putting your full name, current address, DOB and last 4 numbers of your SS number in a post here?
JB, you know as well as I do that when you get sued your life basically becomes a matter of public record, what with discovery and all of that.
I don't think any of that is required in official capacity lawsuits because those are really suits against the government, not the individual. But lots of lawyers don't know for certain when they are suing individuals and when in reality they are suing the state although naming officials, and some still try the 'sue everybody' approach and at least allege that they are suing the officer in their individual capacity, even when that is not true or appropriate.
If they are filing an individual capacity suit or if they think they are, they are looking to recent law regarding identifiers in the pleadings.
Recent amendments to the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code require that info when the lawsuit is filed in state court. There is no federal court equivalent. I just don't think the Legislature was thinking about identity theft or about the safety of public servants and their families when this went through in 2007:
Sec. 30.014. PLEADINGS MUST CONTAIN PARTIAL IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION. (a) In a civil action filed in a district court, county court, or statutory county court, each party or the party's attorney shall include in its initial pleading:
(1) the last three numbers of the party's driver's license number, if the party has been issued a driver's license; and
(2) the last three numbers of the party's social security number, if the party has been issued a social security number.
(b) A court may, on its own motion or the motion of a party, order that an initial pleading be amended to contain the information listed under Subsection (a) if the court determines that the pleading does not contain that information. A court may find a party in contempt if the party does not amend the pleading as ordered by the court under this subsection.
The provision regarding addresses has been around longer, since the late 90's:
Sec. 30.015. PROVISION OF CURRENT ADDRESS OF PARTY IN CIVIL ACTION. (a) In a civil action filed in a district court, county court, statutory county court, or statutory probate court, each party or the party's attorney must provide the clerk of the court with written notice of the party's name and current residence or business address.
I don't think that is true. Back when I used to practice civil litigation we always asserted that the home addresses, etc. of peace officers were confidential. See Gov't Code 552.1175.
Man, I do not miss those days.
Thank you A. Diamond. I was not aware of 30.014. It really is true that if you don't watch out, you learn something new every day.
I, too, would allege that an officer's (and various other public servants') personal info is confidential. In a Chapter 552 Gov't Code context [open records/PIA request situation]that is very clear as to the officers, at least.
But, in a court situation there is a problem because the PIA does not apply to the judicial system. Still, it is worth fighting for if the government is being asked to disclose it, and in fact we have not usually had to disclose personal info. Certainly, the law could be more protective of the officers' personal info than currently worded in litigation situations. Right now, it's not a sure thing that the info would be kept off the record. And there isn't anything that requires the Plaintiff not to plead that sort of info for peace officers, unfortunately. Get a protective order early in the litigation, if you can.
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