Thursday, September 11, 2014

FOIA: Another little chip away in South Carolina - criminal suspects' birthdates

S.C. officials will find any way they can to withhold more information, it seems. This from The State newspaper this week:

The S.C. Department of Public Safety said it no longer will release the date of birth in incidents the agency handles.

Failure to provide that information makes it nearly impossible for the public or the media to determine whether a suspect or victim has a criminal history. SLED requires the public to provide a date of birth to do such a search.

The agency’s legal staff cites two state laws to bolster its decision: The Family and Personal Identifying Information Privacy Protection Act and a financial identity fraud law.

“Insofar as the FPPA precludes the agency from releasing a date of birth, its provisions supersede any release that would be required by FOIA,” Public Safety spokeswoman Sherri Iacobelli said, referring to overriding the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The crime of identity theft lists 10 examples of personal information that can be used to steal financial identity. The lists includes bank account numbers, Social Security and driver’s license numbers and credit card numbers. The last example cited in the law for personal identification is a date of birth.
 We can debate victim's birthdates. But when someone has been charged, I don't think their privacy is in the mix

Wes Wolfe had some interesting insight on Facebook in reaction to this post:

I've seen this sort of crap from law enforcement agencies and it's infuriating because it's so unnecessary. It's a way of asserting control of a piece of information that makes your job harder specifically to show they have control and can make your job harder.

Currently in North Carolina when an agency does this I can check court dates on the state courts network or check the state DPS site -- if the suspect had a previous conviction that resulted in probation or prison time -- and get the DOB like I should have 10, 15 or 30 minutes earlier. It's creating and/or aggravating an adversarial relationship between law enforcement and the press when there doesn't need to be one.

Considering the number of times people with the same name or fathers and sons both have current charges or convictions, DOB goes a long way toward making sure the right person's identified.

Read more here:

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