Tuesday, December 18, 2007

New North Carolina Privacy Protection Law

North Carolina has a new law protecting individual privacy. The law adds to North Carolina's existing identity theft protection act by making it a violation of the act for any person to
knowingly broadcast or publish to the public on radio, television, cable television, in a writing of any kind, or on the Internet, the personal information of another with actual knowledge that the person whose personal information is disclosed has previously objected to any such disclosure.
Looking at its text, the North Carolina law seems to have been written to actually be enforced by aggrieved individuals. Indeed, the North Carolina law explicitly states that it can be enforced by individuals, rather than limiting the right to bring suit under the law to the state attorney general. Also, the North Carolina law includes a statutory damages provision, which addresses difficulties that individuals have had showing actual damage in previous data exposure cases. See, e.g., here and here.

So what's behind these consumer friendly features of the North Carolina law? I think there are two forces at work. The first is an individual named Glenn Hagele (web site here), who lobbied for this specific law to help address a specific fact pattern - where an individual's personal information was made available on the Internet as a reprisal for that individual's public statements. Without Glenn's work on the law, there is simply no reason to think it would exist. The second force I see is more systemic. Identity theft is still a significant concern for consumers (e.g., this article from the AARP describing identity theft concerns of older Americans) and with a seemingly endless stream of high profile incidents taking place, legislators are probably feeling pressure to do something about it. While data breach notification acts revealed that there is a problem with personal information being revealed, the repeated failures of consumers in court have shown that current law doesn't really give individuals the tools they need to protect themselves. Laws like that in North Carolina, which explicitly give consumers a right to sue for statutory damages, could be a step that more legislatures will take in the future to remedy that situation.


USAEYES said...

Glenn Hagele has published the social security numbers of his critics for the purpose of intimidating them. For an example, see http://www.jackholladay.com/avoid_this_doctor.html

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Anonymous said...

Punishment will be swift, and to the fullest extent of the law. Probation violations here we come!!!

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