Document:California Press Release 4 June 1999 Lawmakers Asleep at the Switch Voted to Violate Personal Privacy

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400 Capitol Mall, Suite 900
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 449-3941
For immediate release: June 4, 1999
For additional information:
Juan Ros, Executive Director
Phone: (818) 506-0200

Lawmakers "asleep at the switch" voted to violate personal privacy, Libertarians charge

SACRAMENTO -- Do your elected representatives pay attention to the bills they are voting on?

That's the question the Libertarian Party of California is asking after the Los Angeles Times uncovered a new law that allows the state to sell personal income information to private companies -- a law opposed by only three members of the California Legislature.

"Our representatives are asleep at the switch and should never have voted to violate the privacy of Californians," declared Libertarian state chair Mark Hinkle. "If they let this bad law slip through, how many others must there be?"

The new law authorizes the state's Employment Development Department to sell confidential salary data to private companies. The law, AB 604, was passed in last year's legislative session and was authored by former Assemblyman Steve Kuykendall, now a Congressman.

The Employment Development Department collects salary information as part of its administration of unemployment insurance. This information covers roughly 85% of all state residents.

State Senator Steve Peace (D-El Cajon), when told about the law, was quoted in the Times saying, "Obviously, they slipped this through. This is the first I've heard of it."

According to Hinkle, that's precisely the problem.

"Senator Peace voted in favor of this bill, as did 113 of his colleagues. There is no excuse for the Legislature's ignorance of this measure," Hinkle charged. "And the more bills that get introduced in the Legislature, the more risk there is that particularly bad laws will get passed."

Over 3,000 bills have been introduced since the start of the current legislative session.

For Libertarians, this law represents further proof of the slow invasion of personal privacy by government agencies. "First we fought the FDIC's 'Know Your Customer' banking regulations. Then came the Postal Service's rules on private mailboxes. Now this," noted Hinkle. "The trend is for bureaucracies to chip away at our wall of privacy little by little until the whole wall is knocked down, leaving Americans exposed with no privacy left at all."

What's the solution? "Simple: strengthen privacy laws and strip the government's authority to collect personal data," Hinkle suggested. "And pass fewer laws. Our government should not be in the information-selling business but rather in the privacy-protecting business."