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The Missouri Senate led a fervent discussion this week on the matter of protecting your privacy and personal information. It has come to lawmakers’ attention that the Missouri Department of Revenue (DOR) is allegedly sharing personal information retrieved during the process of obtaining a certain licenses with federal government entities. The upper chamber is enraged about these actions and is determined to get to the bottom of this matter.

Legislative hearings were conducted this week to investigate the claims that DOR is illegally gathering personal information about Missourians when they go to get state documents, such as driver’s licenses or concealed weapons permits. Allegations also surfaced that the federal Department of Homeland Security was involved in the collection of Missourians’ information and that the agency was providing DOR with grants; DOR denied these allegations. However, several lawmakers have spoken out and said DOR provided false information about Homeland Security’s involvement.

A Missourinet article references a senator who noted that, “the department later denied gathering biometric data on license applicants. But earlier this week, a department official admitted to a legislative committee it was, in fact, gathering the information and, further, has a Homeland Security grant to help get the information.” The company that DOR shares Missourians’ information with creates drivers licenses and other permits and is supposed to destroy the data it receives; however, lawmakers have stated that DOR cannot prove that the information is being terminated.

This revelation is very alarming, and frankly, makes my blood boil. The Missouri Legislature passed a bill in 2009 (HB 361) that specifically forbids this type of information from being shared with third parties and the federal government. The act prohibits DOR from amending procedures for applying for a driver’s license or identification card in order to comply with the goals or standards of the federal REAL ID Act of 2005 and from selling any data derived from a person’s license or permit application for commercial purposes. The law also states that any biometric data (information to uniquely identify individuals, such as physical characteristics) previously collected by any state department responsible for the issuance or renewal of driver’s licenses or identification cards must be retrieved and deleted from all databases.

The federal government has no business maintaining citizens’ delicate information — it is over-reaching, “big brother” behavior that we will not brush under the rug. The various actions the federal government could take with our information are endless. There are the security aspects to consider. Where will our information go? We cannot risk the possibility of private data living in an unsecured network that would make Missourians more susceptible to identity theft.

I can assure my constituents that the Senate will not stand idly by and let entities go beyond the scope of their power. To help protect Missourians’ private information, a bill (SB 252) is moving through the upper chamber that would prohibit DOR from retaining copies of source documents used to obtain driver’s and non-driver’s licenses. This issue is far from over — the governor and DOR need to be held accountable for their actions. My fellow senators and I will continue to seek more information and take additional steps forward to be sure our liberties are protected.

Your liberties and privacy are of the utmost importance, and we will send a strong message to DOR and the federal government to respect our state sovereignty and the private business of our citizens. You can listen to my audio interview regarding this matter by visiting my Multimedia page on my Missouri Senate website (www.senate.mo.gov/cunningham), and don’t hesitate to contact my office if you have questions.

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