ACLU-NJ Opposes MVC Document Storage Plan

December 2, 2015

NEWARK - The ACLU of New Jersey and Rutgers School of Law-Newark Constitutional Rights Clinic today submitted comments to the Motor Vehicle Commission Chairman and Chief Administrator Raymond Martinez making the case against proposed amendments to the state’s driver’s license laws that would authorize the Motor Vehicle Commission to scan and retain copies of documents that prove New Jerseyans’ identities and residency. The public comment period for these changes, which would challenge the privacy, security, and constitutional rights of New Jerseyans, ends on Friday, December 4.

Currently, the state’s regulations require people seeking a state-issued ID card to show an MVC representative certain documents to prove their identity and residency before obtaining identification, most commonly a driver’s license. Under the new proposal, the MVC would scan and maintain those documents, which can include birth certificates and Social Security cards, creating fertile ground for identity thieves, whether they are hackers or MVC employees themselves.

“These amendments are incredibly disturbing, and it would be a huge blow to our privacy for them to slide through the approval process without a fight,” said ACLU-NJ Legal Director Edward Barocas. “These regulations have no adequate protections for our privacy. These regulations make us more vulnerable to identity thieves, not less, whether from outside hackers or from within the MVC, as has happened before. We hope these amendments are scrapped or drastically rewritten for the good of our constitutional rights.”

The MVC has not explained why it must maintain copies of New Jerseyans’ personal documents nor justified why the state’s interest in copying them outweighs residents’ privacy rights. The MVC has said only that it seeks to keep documents for “security” purposes, but the agency does not adequately elaborate on the privacy protections involved.

The fraud cited in a 2002 report that led to the creation of a six-point ID system was perpetrated by MVC employees. Later, in 2011, six MVC employees were indicted on several charges for selling counterfeit licenses. The MVC has not explained its rationale for stockpiling New Jersey residents’ documents in the hopes that it will discourage fraud committed by MVC employees themselves.

“We keep coming back to this crucial point: the Motor Vehicle Commission has not identified any real need for keeping copies of people’s highly sensitive documents,” said Rutgers School of Law-Newark Dean Ronald Chen, on behalf of the Rutgers Constitutional Rights Clinic. “The MVC is telling the public to trust them by making our personal information vulnerable. The public should not be forced to sacrifice their privacy under any circumstances, and especially not when the MVC has not even articulated a colorable justification for retaining these documents.”

The proposed regulations fail to satisfy the requirements of even the woefully problematic federal Real ID Act, which requires that states “take measures to protect any personally identifiable information pursuant to the Real ID Act as described in their security plan.”

“The proposed amendments do not articulate, much less justify, the need to retain copies of the document, as distinct from the need to inspect them,” the ACLU-NJ and Rutgers Constitutional Rights Clinic’s comments said. “… Indeed, the compilation of this vast amount of sensitive personal information will create a treasure trove for identity thieves, whether they are hackers or government employees."

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