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Privacy Study Commission
Commission Members and Staff Commission Meetings Talk to the Commission

Public Interest Subcommittee

A Sample of the Written Public Comments
Received from the Website & E-mail

COMMENT - I am opposed to the state of NJ, or any agency or subunit of the state, revealing or disclosing to anyone any information about me contained in any public records, by mail, phone, fax or over the internet. This would of course include my name, social security number, address and phone number, as well as any other identifying information.

COMMENT - I do not believe home addresses need to be accessible to the public in most cases. They need to be available to law enforcement personnel, but should be so restricted. There may be other categories. If so, restricted access is appropriate. Making home addresses fair game for the public is otherwise unnecessary and sometimes dangerous. Certainly the government should be denied the right to circulate home addresses, except in the limited categories. It is probable that no one can identifying every category in question; therefore, everyone should be allowed to obtain a home address from public records by seeking an order from a court, providing adequate reasons.

COMMENT - When I give my home address to the government, I have a reasonable expectation that the government will not turn around and give my home address to anybody else.

COMMENT - # 1 - I believe that home addresses, home phone numbers, along with their SS numbers should be made public for the following reasons. I am a Business Agent for Plumbers and Pipefitters LU 9 here in central NJ. Often we have get certified payroll from different contructions jobs that are ongoing. There is rampant cheating taking place by unscrupulous contractors who take advantage of their workers by not paying them the prevailing wages for the craft that they represent. Or the worker takes cash for some of the hours and checks for the rest. We need all the information we can get as to insure that all workers and the taxpayers of this State are not cheated. Often the agency representing the job leave the name blank or SS blank or the addresses. This information is needed because some workers need a place to call like us to let us know their contractor is cheating them. When you get to a federal funded job it is an absolute disaster with rampant cheating of wages taking place. So the need for all the personal information that is available is needed to protect the taxpayer and worker in general.

#2 - Any and all personal information should be made available for the aforementioned reasons.

COMMENT - I am quite concerned about permitting ANYONE to obtain personal information about me. The requirement to release all documents a government has to anyone especially news organizations and businesses looking to sell something is quite outrageous.

Information about what is happening is one thing but releasing everyones name address family information workplace is too much! Our privacy must be protected. Victims must be protected. This law only serves news media and bad guys trying to find out information to harass law abiding citizens

COMMENT - I will be unable to attend the public hearings being held by the Privacy Study Commission, however, I would ask that the following comments be considered.

Home addresses are just the tip of the ice berg. Property records are now available on-line in Ocean, Union and Middlesex Counties. These records are not only Deeds, which of course contain addresses but also the following that contain more dangerous information. Many mortgages contain social security numbers typed below the legal signatures, these social security numbers, should be redacted from the copies available to the public, however, the custodian/County Clerk does not do so. Federal Liens, and Institutional Liens also contain social security numbers and these instruments are also available to view and copy without this information redacted. New Jersey's County Clerks have in essence, provided a data base for identity theft by allowing them to be available on-line. Getting 50 pieces of junk mail a week really is not as serious as some criminal going on line and obtaining your legal signature and social security number to use to steal your identity.

I ask that you consider this information very seriously and at least take some sort of formal intervention with the County Clerks on this very serious matter.

COMMENT - this is my public comment on the privacy study commission's study of privacy and how it impacts the public's right to know.

I have long been a fan of open public government. I believe the government has too strong a power to hide things it does that are wrong when it restricts access to public records on its citizens. It too often uses "privacy" to hide its criminal dealings.

I want public records open. I want them available. I am willing to lose the "privacy" that commercial enterprises may gain or that other members of the public may gain in order to prevent government from its secretive dealings. Our far greater danger is government. Certainly no matter what "privacy" rules are ever made, the only ones kept from knowledge will be the public - the government always gets the information it needs or wants.

I want public records open and available. We are seeing these days far too many records which should be open kept closed and unavailable.

For example, we get anonymous reports of bears being seen. We want to protect the bears. We are entitled, as members of the public, to know where the bears are and we do not know that unless we have available to us addresses where it was reported they were seen. We have even had reports on these addresses withheld from us. I consider that absolutely stupid. Certainly that kind of information is available.

I also want to know who owns guns in New Jersey, if I am so inclined. If my child goes over to play with another family, I am entitled to know through public records if there is a gun in that house.


COMMENT - An item in the Sunday Star Ledger of June 8, 2003 provided information on the commission and invited comments from interested people. While the article seemed to focus, in the main, on whether the government should provide individual's home addresses in cases where there is no obvious need to know, there are other issues as well.

I am especially concerned about the increasing imposition of the requirement to furnish Social Security numbers where there is no obvious need, or benefit.

With all the examples of identity theft that are occurring, the seemingly indiscriminant insistence on providing SSN's becomes increasingly suspect. As an example, I cite the requirement to provide one's SSN when applying for a recreational clamming license. My understanding of the law is that such request must be accompanied by an explanation, in writing, of the need and purpose for the SSN. This has never happened. In addition, the "original" copy of the application is kept, with dozens of others, attached to an unsecured clipboard at the location where I buy the license. Virtually anyone could access any number of SSN's. I fail to see why a driver's license is not sufficient, if one must establish identity (especially in light of the fact that NJ is adopting digital licenses which are supposed to be more "secure").

There are other examples, I'm sure. I should note that yesterday I received my Tax Saver Rebate application. Inside, the SSN's of both my wife and myself were clearly provided. If these applications were to be removed (stolen) from the mail, anyone could access information they have no business having.

I would like to see less reliance on SSN's for identity in cases where they serve no useful purpose and where there are clear alternatives. I would also like to see that greater care be taken on the part of the government to protect this information (SSN's) when it is necessary to keep them on file.

COMMENT - Our country is based on rule by the majority. Why should the right-to-know of a few surpass the right to privacy of the many. Put it on a ballot or take a poll. The majority of people will say that they don't want their personal information released. There are the obvious issues of being deluged with junk mail and telemarketers, but there is also the issue of identity theft. If someone is able to search enough databases, chances are that they will be able to collect enough information to steal a person's identity. I pay the phone company to not list my number just to minimize unwanted calls. Why should the government (or anyone else) be allowed to give it out. When I give my information to a government agency (for a license or whatever), it is for THEIR use. The information is still MINE and does not belong to anyone else. Right-to-know: sure, but right-to-know what? How the government works, yes. Statistics, sure. My personal information, NO!

The Sunday Star Ledger article on privacy stated that Barbara Peterson says that keeping commercial enterprises from exploiting address lists is not good enough reason to close government files. Well, she is wrong, it is plenty good reason. We the majority should have our rights protected, rather than the minority. She further stated to the effect that junk mail doesn't hurt! What planet does she live on? With so much identity theft going on, one can't take a chance and just dump the junk. One must remove their personal information. That means not only the address label, but go through it and remove all the other places personal info is printed on the inside, and shred it. This takes time. Time is money. Being self-employed, this costs me!

All junk mail should be clearly marked with contact information where one can have their name removed from the mailing list. If that information is not there, the Post Office should not deliver that mail!!

I will stop now, so as not to bore you. Hopefully you have read this far and get the idea.

COMMENT - As a Licensed Private Investigator in the State of New Jersey and as the
President of the New Jersey Licensed Private Investigator's Association (www.njlpia.org), I represent thousands of investigators in the Tri-State area. I am writing to you to explain our position with regard to the recent discussions and concerns with access to public records here in New Jersey.

As a former law enforcement officer, I recognize the need to protect the privacy of individuals from those who have no need for the information except bad intentions and are motivated to cause harm both in a personal and financial way. The need to protect the public from these types of individuals is the right thing to do, but any such regulation and or restriction should not prevent Licensed Private Investigators from this information. The commission should know that we are not the characters that are portrayed in television dramas and in the movies. NJ Investigators are law abiding professionals with years of experience and we must meet strict requirements which include state police criminal background checks that delve into our credit history, moral and ethical character. In fact, since 85% of licensees are retired or former law enforcement officers, New Jersey licensees combined have more law enforcement experience and expertise than most police departments. The laws that regulate private detectives in New Jersey clearly define us in a way that provides us with specific privileges that allow us to conduct investigations. We are not seen as the general public, although whenever laws are considered or passed that effect our profession, we are never asked for our input and ultimately we are faced with challenges of trying to rectify a wrong.

The commission should be aware that we as investigators provide a vital service to our clients, which include attorneys, insurance companies, employers, state and federal agencies and other law enforcement agencies. We are not the ones that the public should be shielded from. Our use of public records helps in support of child custody issues, alimony, identity theft, insurance fraud, false employment applications, background checks, and defense and plaintiff legal issues.

We ask that you take into consideration that our industry provides support to the community and to law enforcement. I ask that we be allowed to testify at any hearings on this subject and that our input be sought as we cannot afford to be hampered by any further limitations. We strongly encourage the commission to recommend that any laws restricting or limiting access to public records includes an exemption for New Jersey Licensed Private Investigators.

COMMENT - I do not feel that home addresses should be considered public information. If i make a complaint to a state or municipal or county agency I am going there for help and the info i send i expect to be private including my home address and the matter i am complaining about. I do not want attornies to get it and use it to start class action suits or others to get the info or my home address do that they can write to me. I WANT MY ADDRESS AND INFO MADE PRIVATE otherwise why should i turn individuals in who may be beaking the law or ripping off consumers. If I give the government name and address to get a driver's license or regster a car I expect it only to be used by them not made available so someone can purchase it and invade my privacy.

Aslo if i register my children to participate in a public sponsored event i expect that info to be private. otherwise people who pray on children could come along ask for a list of names and addresses of all the children participating in a summer swim program for instance and use that info to find their victims.

If someone wants to find out info they can use the phone book but they should not be able to get it from a public agency. I DO NOT WANT EVERYONE IN THE WORLD HAVING THE RIGHT TO KNOW MY BUSINESS BECAUSE SOMEONE FROM THE PRESS FELT IT IS THEIR GOD GIVEN RIGHT TO KNOW EVERYTHING.

I can understand that documents like contract for services etc should be public but individual's home address and phone # should not be available from gov. agencies.

Also I saw in the Camden Courier Post that an individual testified that he was starting a title look up service and felt that he was not getting cooperation from the county clerks. You should check around with title agents and companies because county clerks have been giving them access to transfer records for years. Long before OPRA.


COMMENT - I've read the recent press re the Privacy Study Commission with keen interest. As a former computer-industry professional (20+ years), I believe that the most significant enemy that the average, honest, taxpaying citizen faces is it's own government-and specifically this interest in stripping individuals of their constitutional rights to privacy. The computer is clearly the vehicle; however it is the corrupt vested-interests in law, the finance and insurance industries and politics that are catalyst to dismantle citizen's rights. We are a morally and ethically bankrupt nation.
I work daily with social security numbers of unwitting citizens, now coerced by their government, to provide "key" information i.e mother's madien names, etc. About 25% of my co-workers are, I'm told, not citizens! Who knows where their true interest are?

It's rumored that some additional 5-10% State employees and countless numbers of County and Local parties are convicted felons, who are now allowed access to individual's most sensitive data! The State library system now facilitates identity theft research, by citing birthplaces and social security numbers of deceased New Jersey parties! I need not write a book for you as to how/where that facilitates anyone interested in identify theft. Fishing licenses in this State require provisal of social security numbers! Any controls on those records? Electronic payroll deposits; identifier numbers on health insurance cards, etc, etc. each provide significant opportunity to thieves intent upon defrauding the hapless, honest, stable citizen. Telemarketers have absolutely no right to personal demographic information! Yet government's coerced and purchased politico's are bending over backwards to insure that no one has any semblance of privacy (except of course the judges and other "nobilities" in what has become a two-class system. There are no controls on any of the government files that can be demonstrated to be in the best interests of the citizen. There are no sanctions on parties who violate the limp-wristed rules that exist. There are increasing examples of deliberate bias by financiers; lenders and of course, by government itself, to deprive citizen rights.
When they write the obituary for America (and we're fast becoming a third world nation without citizen liberties of any kind) this issue of dismantling personal privacy-and as such the individual rights to life and "liberty" and justice- will surely be cited as the key ploy used by those who reject "freedom" in favor of dictatorship! It has become increasingly clear to me, that New Jersey has become an anti-American, police state; that the country is headed very quickly in the same socialist direction and that the only winners are those interests cited above and the crooks themselves, who have never been static (or honest) enough to fall victim to these invasions. What's particularly sad to note, is that so many of the persons involved in this matter don't even care to understand the significance and consequences of these liberalized leftist shifts in what once was a proud, free nation.

COMMENT - In response to your Commission accepting comments regarding public government records rules, I'm writing to state I feel very strongly that home addresses should NOT be made public. I feel this is a personal privacy issue, a safety issue and can make identity theft easier. Furthermore, we have no choice in supplying our address to the government, it is a requirement for many items, not an authorization to disclose private info. Lastly, a newspaper article on this subject mentioned Fishing Licenses as an example. We are also now required to supply a social security number to obtain a fishing license, I surely hope making that information public is not being considered.

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