Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, has called for a new law allowing state residents to remove their personal information from internet phone directories and other sites that maintain and distribute records at no cost or for a fee.
Rell, in a statement released this week, compared the opt-out proposal to the national do-not-call registry, signed into law in 2003.
“With a few clicks of the keyboard, anyone can find the age and gender of a person, where they live, where they work, birthdates and other identifying information, she said. “This is a safety and security issue – particularly for our elderly citizens who too often are targeted by scam artists and other opportunists.”
Websites such as 411.com and WhitePages.com are lawful in the way they acquire this information, often through publicly available outlets such as voter registration records and property deeds, Chris Cooper, a spokesman for the governor, told SCMagazineUS.com today. But access to this information can allow a thief to better target an individual.
“The whole idea of online security is something the governor is very interested in,” he said
According to WhitePages.com, users can remove their listings using the site's privacy features. 411.com asks users to fill out a form before their data can be removed.
Privacy expert and San Diego lawyer Andy Serwin said he questions whether the law can be enacted because the information in question is not considered sensitive.
Regulating internet conduct is a difficult proposition, especially when the same data is publicly available through government agencies, he said.
“What you've got to do in order to assess if these laws are good or bad is to look at the sensitivity of the data and the burden imposed on society,” Serwin told SCMagazineUS.com today.
The law would offer the option for residents to remove their personal data, he said.
“It's not a blanket restriction,” Serwin said.
Concerns over privacy have reached a fever pitch this year in Connecticut following a number of high-profile data-loss incidents.
Perhaps the most highly publicized event was in September, when Rell announced that nearly all state government bank account data was stored on a backup computer tape stolen in June from an Ohio state government intern's car.
In August, a state tax department laptop containing the Social Security numbers and names of more than 106,000 residents was stolen in Long Island. And two weeks ago, state motor vehicle officials said three desktop computers were stolen that contained the personal information of 155 customers.
In the wake of these breaches, the governor is also considering a law that would limit the amount and type of information that is obtained and maintained by the government, Cooper said.