Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Glenn Hagele's Eye-Opening Experience

Glenn Hagele is the founder of USAEyes.org, a nonprofit organization which ranks lasik and similar opthalmology professionals so that the general public has one additional source of information before making decisions about eye surgery. He lives in California.

Lauranell "Nell" Burch resides in Durham, North Carolina, where she maintains a website full of complaints on Lasik procedures and even though Hagele never met, treated, or advised her on eye surgery, Burch has 'outed' him on her website by publishing his address, signature, social security number, and banking information.

Hagele says he has been cyber-assassinated, and describes Burch's actions as an "internet hit job". When he asked authorities for help in removing his personal information from Burch's website, he hit a brick wall. Hagele feels legislation hasn't caught up with the warp speed of internet progression.

Mr. Hagele, not only has legislation caught up, they mooned you as they sped past.

For the past two years www.FindMyID.com and Texan David Bloys' News For Public Officials have warned every public official in America who has an email, phone number, or physical address. Not only has our advice gone unheeded, it's most often unappreciated. Databanking is big business in America; protecting private citizens is not.

Hagele plans to speak to legislators and publicly to bring attention to his plight and warn of the danger to others. We wish him all the best and hope that his message reaches Lauranell Burch, whose home address, bank, and signature are all available on the Durham County, NC, Register of Deeds website.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Governor Rick Perry .. NAKED!

Someone needs to say it out loud:

Texas Governor Rick Perry is naked!

Metaphorically parading the streets of Texas in his fine political clothes, Perry condescends to the masses that we simply aren't sophisticated enough to understand his personal, private need for the massive database of information in his office; TDEx.

Governor Perry has spent (so far) $3.6 million on TDEx, an extensive database containing detailed personal information on millions of private citizens. The database is under direct control of Perry and only those he authorizes.

Like the fine silk threads in Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emporer's New Clothes", only the stupid or unworthy would be unable to appreciate the beauty of TDEx. Rather, that's what the Governor was banking on, that the overwhelming majority of Texans would share collective ignorance of an obvious, absurd, fact.

Just as Governor Perry passes by, however, Rep. Richard Pena Raymond (D-Laredo) steps to the forefront and declares to the crowd ...

"But he has nothing on!"

Rep. Raymond swiftly submits HB 4108, a bill which calls for Governor Perry and his Homeland Security Director, Steve McCraw, to come before the Defense Affairs and State - Federal Relations Committee to explain why they have invaded the privacy of millions of Texans.

Raymond goes on to comment, "There is no greater right as an American citizen than the right to privacy. This basic right has been put in jeopardy by the governor's reckless and improper handling of Texans personal information. I'm asking for immediate action and oversight.

No Texan, regardless of ideology or political party, believes a governor should have unlimited access into the lives of private individuals. It is disappointing that Rick Perry has been blind to the basic fundamental rights of those who elected him."

Millions of Texans will have Rep. Raymond to thank for speaking up to the blind parade of individuals who amazingly allowed Perry to get this far.

As for Governor Perry? For heaven's sake, man, cover yourself!


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Governor Perry's Colossal Abuse of Power

Turns out Texas Governor Rick Perry may have had ulterior motives when declaring social security numbers were no longer confidential. Less than a month later we learn of his super-collection of data on fellow Texans, data that isn't guarded by proper security, but housed in the governor's own office.

In retrospect, Texans have little right to complain. There have been constant calls to action over abuse of privacy by the county clerks who, in the light of day, apparently were given the green light all along to place sensitive information online. But it isn't too late.

Last month during a visit to my son in Washington, DC, we drove through the downtown area and landed in the thick of an anti-war rally. Angry protestors carried signs and shouted to each other and passing motorists while others took to make-shift stages sending messages to the masses.

I wondered how effective these protestors were and realized the very people they were shouting against were most likely away for the weekend and if at all, would hear about the rallies in a 10 second newscast days after the fact.

How much more effective would our voices be if they were calm and determined instead of shouted? Penned instead of screamed? Consistently calling instead of carrying signs?

When Texas legislators' and Governor Rick Perry's office switchboard is jammed with angry callers and his mail has to be delievered in bags, when his email server crashes, then they'll listen to you. Until then, none of the blogs or protests or news reports will make one bit of difference. Just as we've seen with the latest development of the super-database, for example.

To call Governor Rick Perry:
(512) 463-2000 or
(800) 252-9600.

Write him at:
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas

Fax your opinion to:
(512) 463-1849

No shouts or protest signs necessary.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Public Records Worth Publishing

In the midst of moving, I keep running across documents that ought to be published online. These are of much greater value to the masses than your neighbor's deed of trust, yet no risk is posed by placing them online.

Why isn't there a repository for truly valuable personal documents? Why do we even argue about whether to place someone's life and assets at risk when there are countless drawings, notes, and love letters rattling around in the back of a drawer somewhere that would enrich the lives of everyone who read them? I'd be more than happy to pay that $14 first page, $3 each page thereafter for such a document to be preserved.

My 5 year old neighbor coordinates walking Pockets, her poodle, with my arrival home from work so that we can visit for a few minutes. Like clockwork, she is always smiling, waiting, leash in hand as I pull in each afternoon. To an empty nest Mom, this is a welcome, anticipated sight.

Since Easter was nearing I decided to make a little Easter basket for my tiny neighbor as a surprise. Filling it with craft supplies, chocolates and a fuzzy bunny who clung to the handle, I slipped downstairs to secretly leave it by her door. Only the surprise was on me.. she was arrriving home with her mom at the same moment. They were both thrilled and the joy in her eyes was worth stopping packing for a few minutes to pack a colorful basket.

Last night after coming home late, I found a note stuck in the door. In measured, childish handwriting, was a sweet thank you note:

Dear Jan,

Thank you Very much for My easter basket. I like the bunny the Best. I Named her Bunny Brianna. I liked everything. thank you. Love Jadan

The second precious document was discovered when clearing that kitchen drawer we all have but couldn't inventory if our lives depended on it. On a page from a note pad were these words, written by my son years ago:

What a wonderful day, just 'cause the sun came up. Every day is a miracle. Everything around us proves it. How lucky we are to be witness to God's quiet miracles. So much we take for granted!

Reality is this; we place our neighbors and entire country at risk while allowing precious documents like the ones above to be discovered by accident, years later. In case we ever come to our senses and provide a respository for similar documents, I'll place these in a more secure place after the move.

If you're concerned about security breach by your county government, just send me a note at findmyid@mindspring.com and provide your name, county, and state. I'll be happy to check your records free of charge, but don't expect a reply for a day or so. I've decided to take a little breather to focus on thoughtful children and "God's quiet miracles".

Monday, April 09, 2007

Online Records. It's YOUR Fault.

It shouldn't surprise me, but does, that the main focus of online record control has turned into a colossal blame game. No matter who wants to discuss online records the conversation is generally monopolized by the interviewer asking who I blame for loss of privacy and the resulting increase in ID Theft.

My answer: All of us.

If you are an American citizen who hasn't complained to your local clerk and other elected officials, you are the problem. If you're an abstractor who's seen sensitive documents online but brought it to no one's attention, then you're to blame. If you're an attorney whose client lists their social security number on the document just because there's a space for it, knowing you will later record that doc with a clerk who publishes online, then you are to blame. Ditto for banks, notaries, title companies, and certainly the clerks and registrars who post that information online - and the county management who allows it.

There's plenty of blame to go around but discussing and assigning it is fruitless. The real issue is online recordkeeping and the lack of security in our nation. If you'll simply take responsibility for your part of the problem, pretty soon we won't have a problem.

Let's not leave the patient waiting in the operating room while we stand outside the ER screaming at passing motorists, trying to decide who hit the poor guy. Scoot! Everybody! Go and do your job!

Get in touch with us at findmyid@mindspring.com We still check records free of charge.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Politickin' Ain't Cheap

I've just read "Business, bureaucrats hope lawmakers trump Abbott's SSN rule" in Legal News Online and wonder if you noticed who was missing from that headline. How about the citizens of Texas?

That noted, let's clear up a few things.

HB 2061 does not allow for redaction of a social security number. It allows for redaction of all but the last four digits of a social security number which, ironically, are the most crucial in identity theft.

In a recent article in News For Public Officials , author David Bloys breaks down the social security number this way:

"Your nine-digit SSN is composed of three parts, only the last part identifies you. The other two sets of numbers identify the group of people who received their numbers from the same region and at approximately the same time as you."

As for business grinding to a halt in Texas when the clerks blocked access to the records; hogwash. That was nothing more than a well-orchestrated sit-in designed to punish Abbott for upsetting the clerks' routine.

As an abstractor, I know personally the importance of access to official records when completing a title order. But the title companies have been buying records in bulk from those few rogue clerks for years in order to create their own title plants and spending less than a penny per record, literally, while the public, who built and paid for the database still pay as much as a dollar per page. As for a disservice to the public, most citizens have never even been to the clerk's office unless it was for a marriage license or copy of a birth certificate and geez, now you can just order a birth certificate online.

No one seems to remember that there are also books inside the courthouse, which is how records were searched for a hundred years until software salesmen came along and courted a few misguided clerks. One North Carolina clerk answered this way when asked the advantage of online systems over books, "Well, we don't have all those people cluttering up the office."

Funny, isn't it? How we're 'voters' one month and 'clutter' the next?

Don't you find it interesting that Abbott's ruling "triggered a burst of activity" among Texas clerks in removing social security numbers once it was mandated? This is something they could have initiated and should have been doing all along if they'd been concerned at all. But Texas is the corporate home of Affiliated Computer Systems (ACS), Perot Systems, Electronic Data Systems, Hart Intercivic, and countless other software companies and data brokers and as we've witnessed from nearly every public official in Texas except Greg Abbott, money talks. In Texas, big money talks loud.

Yes, Texas representatives "rode to the rescue" of business, bureaucrats and county clerks who pouted until they received HB 2061, but cowardly sold out the everyday citizen by bowing to Big Money in the process. I hope they remembered to pick up their spines at the door.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


The post office did it. So did motor vehicle offices. License plate divisions. Even some police departments. Billing offices have done it for years.

Government offices all over the nation are turning to the private sector for more efficient, innovative service ideas. That's where I come in.

"If you want something done right, do it yourself."

I couldn't agree more. And that's why, after pleading, worrying, cajoling, and lobbying against online records in government, I'm toying with the idea of a Deeds R Us office near you.

Not only will your records remain offline, I'll keep a communication log of who requests to see them. Title companies, banks, and data brokers may view, but not copy the records. All abstracts must be done on site.

Think I'm kidding?

Even Harvard Business School can't argue that there are thousands more homeowners / voters than there are title executives, legislators, and data brokers. And those homeowners and voters are frustrated beyond reason with clerks and registrars who sell and expose them and then claim moral and legal immunity.

Think real estate industry will grind to a halt?

Think again. If I hold the fastest growing repository in town, they'll come around quick enough.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? But the clerks and registrars have already enabled the private sector to successfully run such a business. They're called 'title plants' and they gained billions of your records at cut-rate prices, compliments of rogue clerks such as Dianne Wilson of Fort Bend County, Texas.

But my company will be different. You won't record with the county and me. Just me. And when there's a big enough gap in the chain of title and enough title companies tapping pencils to their teeth out of boredom and enough legislators trying to explain how this all happened, then you'll get the respect you paid for and fully deserved all along.

Deeds R Us. Reasonable recordings secured in a steel vault. Coming soon to a town near you!

Until that happy day, send an email to FindMyID@mindspring.com I'll be happy to check your records free of charge. Oh, and investors are welcome to contact me at the same email address. I check it often. There's no shortage of furious, frightened citizens asking for help.