E-verify may emerge in Virginia
Personal data compiled by the government would be used for "safety" purposes
With the introduction of a new state initiative, Virginia officials are in the process of creating an electronic identity authentication system which will include residents’ addresses, driver’s license numbers and other personal information for use by state agencies.
The database, which would will be piloted by the Department of Social Services Tuesday, aims to help state agencies combat fraud and to make it easier for residents to do business with government institutions electronically, according to state officials. Information about residents will be gathered using data from the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Centralizing residents’ personal information into one system for use throughout all state agencies should increase efficiency for both the government and residents, but some groups have expressed concern that the database would impede the privacy rights of residents.
“We don’t know what the purpose is,” said Claire Gastañaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia. “Most people believe that when they give information to the government they give it to them for a specific reason … but my understanding is that there’s been no public engagement about this.”
Gastañaga, who was unaware of the project until a reporter brought it to her attention last week, said the government should have gathered public opinion before developing such a database.
“They could have public hearings,” Gastañaga said. “They could ask people if they would be willing to not get a driver’s license to keep their information private.”
The Richmond Times Dispatch reports that state officials say the use of the system will be voluntary for residents.
Gastañaga compared the electronic verification system to the National Security Agency data gathering program that was revealed by newspapers over the summer. “We’ve all given information to Verizon for our cell phones, and we had no idea they were going to go ahead and and give that info to the NSA,” she said. “Next thing you know, they’re going to want to know your information from the library about what books you’ve taken taken out.”
There is no word yet about when the system will expand beyond the Department of Social Services.