Throwback Thursday: Personal information shared by government agencies

March 28, 2019

Inside Insight

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A WCSC article published yesterday reported that the Department of Motor Vehicles routinely sells personal information (such as driver’s license numbers, addresses, phone numbers, crash reports, traffic tickets and current license statuses) to nearly anyone –  from bulk data companies to lawyers.

As disturbing as this is, the DMV is not the only government entity guilty of similar practices. Last year, The Nerve reported that a little-known board routinely shares personal medical information compiled from the state’s healthcare agencies and stored in a medical records data warehouse.

This data warehouse was created by budget proviso in 2002, and last year lawmakers attempted to pass another data warehouse proviso – this time for education and workforce data. While that attempt eventually failed, the education and workforce data warehouse proposal has been filed this year as a stand-alone bill.

Citizens should not trust sensitive information to legislators and their staffs, bureaucrats or undefined “researchers.” There truly is no limit to what’s possible, and – as this report shows – privacy caveats are flimsy and often don’t significantly limit access at all.

Little-known S.C. panel regularly OKs requests to release sensitive information

For at least two years, a few members of an obscure state panel have routinely approved requests by public- and private-sector researchers for sensitive information contained in a massive health “data warehouse,” records reviewed by The Nerve show.

The medical records database, managed by the state Revenue and Fiscal Affairs (RFA) Office, was created in 2002 under a state budget proviso and is renewed annually via a proviso. The Nerve in August revealed that a state privacy law and inter-agency agreements for the database offer weak privacy protections for citizens who deal with S.C agencies that provide records for the database.

Lawmakers earlier this year wanted to launch a similar “data warehouse” that would track sensitive education and workforce information on children and adults in South Carolina. Gov. Henry McMaster in July vetoed a budget proviso that would have authorized the creation of the database – several days after The Nerve raised privacy concerns.

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