Another Minnesota Reporter Sues Over Driver’s License Privacy Breach

By Kevin Eck Comment

JayKolls300KSTP reporter Jay Kolls has added his name to the growing list of Minneapolis on-air talent who are suing various Minnesota municipalities and the State Department of Safety over accusations law enforcement officers and others looked at the information on his driver’s license without justification.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports, Koll’s lawsuit, which was filed in Minneapolis Federal Court, listed 27 instances when “personnel, charged with protecting and serving the public, knowingly abused their position of trust simply to satisfy their shallow desires to peek behind the curtain” into his personal life.

Last week, KMSP morning news anchor Alix Kendall filed a similar lawsuit. Her attorney Jon Strauss told the Mankato Free Press, “[Kendall] was shocked and disgusted to learn she had been looked up more than 3,800 times.” Strauss added, “We believe this is the largest data breach in Minnesota history. Ironically, these people have been snooping into her life, but we can’t find out who they were until we start gathering discovery information.”

The suits revolve around access to the state driver’s license database knows as the Driver and Vehicle Services Database or DVS system.The Free Press sums it up nicely:

Information that can be obtained through the DVS system includes current and former addresses, current and former driver’s license photographs, weight, height and, possibly, Social Security and medical information, Strauss said. The filing also points out that Kendall’s information was searched by name, not by her license plate numbers. So the searches didn’t include police officers doing random traffic searches for stolen vehicles or people with arrest warrants.

In August KMSP anchor Dawn Mitchell sued around 50 Minnesota governments in federal court over similar concerns.  KSTP investigative reporter Beth McDonough filed her lawsuit in July.The Star Tribune said the “defendants’ ‘utter disregard for [Kolls’] privacy rights’ caused him “emotional distress and a logical fear for his personal safety.”

He went on to call the defendants “window peepers of the electronic data age.”

The suit did not address why Kolls’ license data would be of interest to the defendants. Asked on Wednesday about a possible motive, Kolls said, “We are trying to figure it out.”

Officials with each of the defendants also have been contacted Wednesday seeking reaction to the suit.

John Iverson, an attorney representing Mound, Orono, Rosemount, Savage, Shakopee and the Dakota Communications Center, said, “We will be filling an early motion to dismiss as we have done in all of the other cases and expect similar rulings granting the motion.”

Bruce Gordon, spokesman for the DPS, said, “State agencies, including DPS, have been dismissed from these lawsuits in the past. Those rulings made it clear that state agencies are not liable for a user’s unauthorized access of driver and vehicle data.”

As evidence, the suit presents an audit prepared last year at Kolls’ request by the DPS showing what it says are the unauthorized instances of looking up driver’s license information that includes: home address, color photograph, date of birth, eye color, height, weight, driver identification number, as well as medical and social security information.

The suit seeks at least $75,000 in damages and payment of Kolls’ expenses in bringing the legal action. It also calls on the DPS to better monitor and investigate such suspicious actions.