Tuesday, April 11, 2006

When government works

The state Senate yesterday approved a bill on identity theft. A similar bill is pending in the House.

What I like about this development is that it represents a fairly thoughtful approach amid a lot of hyperbole and noise about privacy. Given the intemperate proposals from the governor and attorney general, it would have been easy for the legislature to get stampeded into passing a bad bill. Instead, the Pawlenty/Hatch proposals appear dead.

The identity theft proposal is a particularly good one because, as the woman featured in the story says, it can be difficult, time-consuming and expensive to get false information out of your credit report, largely because the people with the power to remove it have almost no incentive for doing so quickly.

My wife and I were the victims of identity theft several years ago, and we still haven't gotten all the smirches off of our records. Trying to do so launched us on a merry-go-round of bureaucracy, with the credit bureaus saying the bank had to request that the information be removed, the bank saying it was the collection agency's responsibility, the collection agency saying they had asked the bank to remove it, the bank saying it had lost the records.... it went on and on.

Only laws with teeth can fix that problem for victims of such theft.

But general restrictions on access to government data are a different kettle of fish. For detailed discussions of why the governor's proposal is a bad one, go here and here.

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