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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Seattle Times Sued Over Dates of Birth

Here is a piece by Seattle Times Editor-at-Large Mike Fancher. It describes the suit recently filed by King County employees against the Times to prevent the disclosure of employees' dates of birth. (The Times will win this suit. KIRO TV won an identical suit a few months ago.) Mike Fancher's piece also provides an excellent explanation of why disclosure of public employee dates of birth is vital to government accountability and does not unnecessarily lead to identity theft.

That last point might seem odd. The conventional wisdom is that all an identity thief needs is your date of birth and then your life is ruined. As usual, the truth is more complicated than the conventional wisdom. It takes more--much more--than simply a date of birth to pull off identity theft. (Maybe if corporations didn't blindly extend credit to everyone and their cat--and my cat "Mr. Sparky Cat" actually received a pre-approved credit card one time--identity theft wouldn't be such a problem. Pre-approving credit cards for cats--now that's the source of the identify theft problem.)

By the way, if there is anyone out there who still thinks a person's date of birth is a sacrosanct secret that no one could possibly find out (unless mean newspapers ask for it in a public records request), wake up and smell the coffee of the Internet age. Click here to go the state voter registration database, where you can type in any name and (if they are registered to vote, and just about every adult is) then the date of birth and home address instantly pops up. A date of birth is not a secret.