The Oklahoman is at it again. This weekend, the state’s leading newspaper took several jabs at OPEA and state employees in an effort to unlock your private information. The Oklahoman’s editor Ed Kelley took a down-home approach in trying to explain why he wants seven pieces of your information, including your date of birth.
Good old Uncle Ed, in response to the hundreds of state employees who have been calling The Oklahoman and expressing concern with the Oklahoman’s request for private information, is now conducting full-scale damage control. Kelley told his readers and state employees in Sunday’s paper that The Oklahoman’s motives are pure and we can trust him with our personal information.
Sure, why not? Ed Kelley seems like a trustworthy guy. Wrong. Here is the truth:
The Oklahoman has requested seven pieces of information on state employees: FULL NAME, TITLE, EMPLOYEE ID NUMBER, EMPLOYEE AGENCY, EMPLOYEE JOB DESCRIPTION, EMPLOYEE START DATE AND EMPLOYEE DATE OF BIRTH OF EVERY EMPLOYEE CURRENTLY EMPLOYED BY THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA.
Kelley says they want our dates of birth “to eliminate common name matches when we conduct periodic background checks of public employees.” If this is true, then there are several other ways for reporters to verify and eliminate common names which The Oklahoman’s reporters John Estus and Paul Monies readily admit. And, why didn’t the reporters only request the names that were at issue?
Ol’ Uncle Ed says OPEA is accusing them of wanting to publish your birth dates. Wrong again Mr.Kelley. We never said you would publish 40,000 birth dates. What we said, and what you will do, is use those 40,000 records to expose tax warrants, bankruptcies, divorces, traffic tickets—anything that might embarrass state employees. Is that good journalism? No, but it’s the caliber of reporting “The Daily Disappointment” has been churning out since 1907.
“Open records—of which dates of birth are a key component—and open meetings laws allow us to do our job on behalf of our readers and online audiences,” Kelley says in a Sunday article. Well, Uncle Ed, take a look at your blog and see exactly what your readers are telling you. Like OPEA, a majority of your readers think you should stick to reporting the news, not creating it.
Now about the privacy expert: TheOklahoman has a so called “privacy expert” from Texas named Richard J.H. Varn on their side, who claims the release of birth dates does not pose a threat. Mr. Varn is the executive director of The Coalition for Sensible Public Records Access, which lobbies in Texas for the invasion of all public employees private information.
The fact The Oklahoman and Mr. Varn do not disclose is, Mr. Varn represents a number of companies that are no more than media marketing firms or information data miners. Some of the members of his organization include: Acxiom Corporation, R.L. Polk& Co., First American CoreLogic, First Advantage, and Reed Elsvier. These are all firms that either sell data to other organizations, or do marketing and research. These companies pay big money to get their hands on information for their clients. Did we mention The Oklahoman recently purchased a direct mail company?
Don’t be fooled, folks. While Uncle Ed Kelley and his cronies are telling us in a down-home way just why state employees need to listen to him, OPEA is stepping in. OPEA is simply trying to do what our members have asked us to do, protect their privacy.We know you agree, because your privacy matters!