Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Panel and Audience Debate Right to Know vs. Right to Privacy

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Panel and Audience Debate Right to Know vs. Right to Privacy

Article excerpt

SHOULD REPORTERS or the public be allowed to examine driving records of school bus drivers in Missouri, as they can now? What about ambulance workers' driving records? How about your own drivers license data: age, address and any driving restrictions?

Should a business be allowed to buy from the state listings of boat registrations or the names of all owners of Mercedes-Benz automobiles in a given ZIP code area? Or the names and addresses of female drivers with a specific date of birth, together with their height, weight and eye color?

Five panelists and an often-divided audience tackled such questions Sunday at a program sponsored by the St. Louis Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. About 40 people attended. Many urged that motor vehicle records stay open to the public, while others deplored what they described as a little-publicized and unwarranted invasion of privacy.

The panel discussion focused on a section of the 1994 federal crime bill that will largely close access in three years to motor vehicle records in all states, unless state legislatures opt out of the restriction by then.

The law gives 14 exceptions, allowing access for government agencies, legal proceedings, insurers checking claims, towing companies, some private investigators and motor vehicle recalls. …

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