Under the Dome

Dome: State database could share SS numbers, photos

May 26, 2013 

A year ago, a little-noticed provision in the state budget initiated the creation of a computer database to be overseen by the state controller, drawn from individual information of state residents collected by state agencies, Scott Mooneyham at The Insider reports.

The provision didn’t exactly explain the purpose of the database, except to state that it was meant to “reduce unnecessary information silos” and “leverage the data.”

Now a series of new provisions in the Senate’s proposed budget would rework, add to and may explain the purpose of the “enterprise-level business intelligence initiative.”

Mooneyham writes: “Among the add-ons: It would allow the Division of Motor Vehicles to share Social Security numbers and photos of motorists with the database system, and it would permit the Department of Revenue to share individual tax information. The provisions reiterate that the controller and a new center overseeing the database are conveyed with law enforcement and medical provider status so that other confidential, individual information could be provided to the system. Several of the provisions include the caveat ‘to the extent allowed by federal law.’

“Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, who sponsored a separate bill that included many of the provisions, acknowledged that a major purpose of the database is to try to catch fraud involving unemployment insurance and workers compensation.

“ ‘There is already state ownership of the data,’ Hise said. ‘It is information the DMV has.’

“It is not entirely clear that he is correct regarding ownership of the data, especially as it relates to federal Social Security numbers. The State Privacy Act, approved to put the state in line with federal law, requires that any state or local government request to an individual for a Social Security number inform the person whether the disclosure is mandatory or voluntary, and what uses will be made of the number. ... The budget provisions do call for a study to examine safeguards for personal information collected by state agencies. Another provision, though, makes clear how the database could be used. It would allow local governments to contract with the system, to be called the Government Data Analytics Center, to go after parking ticket scofflaws and then garnish their income tax returns.

“Sarah Preston, policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said the ACLU has been contending for some time that government databases present a danger of this kind of ‘mission creep.’ Databases can be created for reasonable purposes, and people share information for specific purposes, and then that information is used for other purposes without permission, she said.”

Ag-gag bill awakens

The Ag-gag bill may still be alive.

Controversial Senate Bill 648 is slumbering in Senate Rules but may get a hearing this week, according to a lobbyist for the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States.

The bill aims to prevent undercover whistleblowers from exposing animal abuse in the state’s meat processing plants.

Similar bills have been filed in other states. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent North Carolina lawmakers a video featuring Republican pundit Mary Matalin that showed graphic scenes of animal abuse.

A break from all that

House and Senate lawmakers held skeleton, no-vote sessions Friday to give themselves Monday off. (The constitution says they can’t recess for longer than three days during session.)

That means a break for protesters as well.

The state NAACP will host its next demonstration June 3 at the statehouse.

Staff writers John Frank, and Lynn Bonner

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