Privacy complaints put driver's license database under scrutiny

12:10 AM, Jan 9, 2013   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +

ST. PAUL, Minn. - When Anne Marie Rasmussen dropped more than a hundred pounds a few years ago, she says it's not the only thing she lost.

A former police officer, Rasmussen says some of her coworkers, plus dozens of people she didn't even know, stole her privacy by using a Minnesota state computer database to look at her driver's license more than 500 times.

Rasmussen now says she's scared of being in public, and scared of the very people she used to work with every day.

"Being outside is terrifying," Rasmussen said.

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek says he also is concerned about misuse within the system. He said he learned in June that 21 different state agencies had looked up his license, saying he doesn't think they all had a reason. Stanek says when he asked the Department of Public Safety who had looked, they wouldn't tell him.

"The names of the people who have accessed that data are private under Minnesota law," said Bruce Gordon, DPS Director of Communications.

The DPS told Anne Marie Rasmussen the same thing when she asked, but she finally did find out when she filed a civil lawsuit, winning more than a million dollars in damages so far.

Her attorney, Jon Strauss of the Sapientia Law Group in Minneapolis, says the case shows how unfortunate it is that state law prevents victims like Rasmussen from finding out who's seeing their records -- and whether they have a need to.

DPS says it's following the current state law, adding that it does its own checks, each month printing a list of the 50 people who use the system the most, and doing random audits to help protect privacy.

"Law enforcement people really need to use this data, and we want to make sure they continue to have access to it," Gordon said. "But misuse will not be tolerated."

Laws now leave any punishment up to the agency where misuse took place, but those laws could soon change.

State representative Mary Liz Holberg says the state's computer system should be better about tracking misuse, and she expects legislators will discuss that issue and other things related to drivers license privacy during this legislative session.

(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Most Watched Videos