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ACLU Objects to Intrusive Licensing Forms Proposed by Department of Business Regulation

Posted: January 22, 2007|Category: Privacy

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At a Department of Business Regulation hearing scheduled for tomorrow, the ACLU of Rhode Island will be raising significant privacy concerns over proposed regulations that would require many employees at Lincoln Park and Newport Grand to provide detailed financial and other information about themselves. National privacy expert Robert Ellis Smith will be testifying on behalf of the ACLU to note, among other things, that the proposed intrusion on the privacy of employees will likely be of little use to the state, but could be a magnet for identity thieves.

The Department is proposing to turn what used to be a two-page annual renewal form for many employees into a 20-page form. Among the new questions on the form that have prompted concerns are ones requiring disclosure of a variety of personal financial information, including a list of all bank accounts and safety deposit boxes. The new form also repeats a dubious provision from prior forms, requiring employees to waive their Fourth Amendment rights over any premises which they “occupy or control” and their personal property and effects. The proposed form concludes with an expanded “release authorization,” permitting virtually every conceivable public and private institution to “release any and all information” it has pertaining to the employee that the Division requests.

Smith said today: “Studies show that close supervision and creating a culture where employees all have a stake in honesty in the workplace work far better than the idle collection of vast amounts of personal information. Most likely, all this information is likely to be stashed somewhere, never to be used, while it will remain a tempting archive for identity thieves and their cohorts.” The proposed form was apparently taken from one that has been used for some time at casinos in New Jersey, but Smith noted that since its adoption there, “attitudes have changed a lot towards protecting Social Security Numbers and other sensitive information,” and that “the Rhode Island establishments, not being casinos, have far less rationale for gathering all this information.”

RI ACLU executive director Steven Brown added: “This is a perfect example of the government collecting information solely for the sake of collecting information. There has been no rash of incidents of dishonesty among these employees to warrant such a severe intrusion on their privacy.”

The public hearing was scheduled after unions for employees at the two facilities sued last month to halt implementation of the new forms. The hearing is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 10:30 AM at DBR’s Providence office.

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