Two Court Cases: Disclosure of Residential Addresses in Petition and SSN in Land Records

U.S. Supreme Court

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Government privacy invasions

Disclosure of personal information can be a safety issue, as in the case of stalking victims and those who work at nonprofits.

Source: Mark J. Fitzgibbons, Op-Ed, The National Law Journal, September 27, 2010

… In Doe v. Reed, Washington Secretary of State, 130 S. Ct. 2811 (2010), the plaintiffs sought the U.S. Supreme Court‘s protection against disclosure of residential addresses. … Ballot-initiative petitions are filed with the secretary of state, who determined under Washington law that those are records subject to review by the public. Opponents of a ballot initiative to repeal the state’s domestic partnership law stated they would publish on the Internet the names and addresses of petition signers. Petition organizers claimed such disclosure violated the First Amend­ment because it exposed petition signers to threats, harassment and reprisal, and therefore has a chilling effect on the right to sign the petition. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled, 8 – 1, that the First Amendment does not prohibit the secretary’s determination that the petitions are public records …

In Ostergren v. Cuccinelli, nos. 09-1723, 09-1796 (4th Cir. July 26, 2010) … decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit on Aug. 2, a privacy advocate … published online the Social Security numbers of Virginia public officials as a means to protest the commonwealth’s failure to redact that information from land records of citizens. Virginia sought to sanction her and enjoin publication, but the 4th Circuit held that the First Amendment protected such publication. …

 For full text of the article, click here.

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