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Supreme Court Rules on Birth Date Release

Filed by Michael Cross in Feature, Local News, News, Politics.
June 29, 2011

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An organization supporting state workers is celebrating the State Supreme Court’s decision to block the release of birth dates for public employees.

But, an OSU journalism professor calls it a knee jerk reaction from an activist court.

Officials with the Oklahoma Public Employees Association say they’re pleased with the high court’s decision.

Executive Director Sterling Zearley says this was about protecting the state workers especially those in the realm of public safety.

“We have a lot of employees who work in these areas. They sometimes take kids out of homes. We have people who collect taxes. We have people who are undercover agents, and that was a huge concern for us.”

But, OSU Associate Professor of Journalism Joey Senat says the seven to two decision was a huge blow to the public’s right to act as a watchdog of government.

Senat says checking the birth date of a person is a more specific way of identifying someone with a common name.

“The legislature had already exempted home addresses and phone numbers and social security numbers and they had never included and specifically had rejected legislation the last two years to include dates of birth.”

While the court cited possible identity theft, Senat says there’s no evidence to support claims of ID theft through the public’s access to birth dates.

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