Company challenges Florida’s move to halt sale of driver’s license photos

Tuesday, February 9, 1999

Florida has joined South Carolina and Colorado in halting the sale of driver's license photos to Image Data Corp. of New Hampshire, which was using the photos as part of an anti-fraud system.

Image Data Corp. last week challenged a temporary injunction, which was sought by the state of Florida and issued by Seminole County Circuit Judge Nancy Allen, that prevents the company from buying Florida driver's license pictures.

Even if the injunction were overturned, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has said that his state's contract with Image Data is over. Language in the agreement ends the contract if there's a court order or change in the law, says Bush spokesman Corey Tilley.

Jane Kirtley, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, says that when people learn that public documents are sold for commercial purposes, they then insist that those documents should be kept private.

But the contention that information should be put off-limits because its release could hurt someone creates a problem for public access, Kirtley says.

“Under that theory there should be no public records,” she said.

“The easiest move elected officials can make is to close off public records,” Kirtley said.

The transaction between the states and the New Hampshire company is being debated as an invasion-of-privacy issue. Information that has been available to the public for some time is now being deemed confidential.

Under Image Data's “TrueID” service, driver's photos stored in a computer could be displayed on retailer's terminals for a few seconds, and only for the purpose of verifying the identity of someone cashing a check or using a credit card. The rest of the license data and the Social Security numbers would be used only to find and transmit the correct photograph, company officials have said.

Lorna Christie, a spokeswoman for Image Data, says identity fraud costs Florida $570 million annually.

Last month, South Carolina sued to have driver's license photos and other information returned and is seeking an injunction against further sales to Image Data.

And last week in Colorado, officials took similar action to halt the sale of license information to Image Data. Gov. Bill Owens says Colorado lawmakers will introduce a bill to void his state's contract with the company.