Exposing the LASIK Scam

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 Post subject: Glenn Hagele's attempt to remove embarrassing info. stymied
PostPosted: Sun May 06, 2007 7:29 pm 
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http://www.newsobserver.com/1446/v-prin ... 71344.html

Personal info goes public
Vicki Lee Parker, Staff Writer

In North Carolina, it is illegal for a business to publicize someone's
Social Security number. But there's nothing stopping someone from making that information known, particularly if it comes from a public document.

Glenn Hagele of Sacramento, Calif., is hoping to change that.

Hagele cares about North Carolina's laws because of a simple Internet link.

He found out this year that a local Web site was linked to another site that
had posted his 14-year-old bankruptcy filing -- complete with his personal
information, including Social Security and credit card numbers.

Lauranell H. Burch of Durham, owner of the local site, Lasikdisaster.com,
said she did not post Hagele's information and that her site had been linked to the other site long before Hagele's information was posted. She also noted that his information was part of a public document.

"The issue at hand is whether Sacramento should make public documents that contain Social Security numbers and other information," Burch wrote in an e-mail message.

She said she disapproved of Hagele's practices and views about lasik
surgery. Hagele runs USAEyes.org, a nonprofit organization in Sacramento that certifies lasik surgeons.

"It's Glenn's behavior that brought about the documents being in the
courthouse in the first place," Burch said. Still, Burch removed the link, and Hagele's information is no longer accessible from her site.

But that's not enough for Hagele. He wants a law.

When he came to Raleigh to see if the state Attorney General's Office could help with his problem, he quickly found out that the link was not illegal.

In 2005, the state passed a law making it illegal for businesses to publicize Social Security numbers, but it did not address what individuals
could do.

It's really very difficult to address," said Paul Stephens, policy analyst
at Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego, Calif. "Ultimately, the issue
comes down to: Once it gets out into the public domain, it's very difficult to restrict a person's right to publicize it. It's kind of a free speech
issue."


Stephen J. Korbin, a management professor at the Wharton School of the
University of Pennsylvania, said that the larger issue is protecting the
data in the first place. "You can't constrain every person, but you can
rethink what information needs to be made public and what doesn't," he said.

Apparently, the problem of publicly displaying personal information is so
new in this Internet age that few states have tried to deal with it.

North Carolina and Florida appear to be the only states that have made
attempts to restrict a person's personal data from entering the public
domain, according to thevirginiawatchdog.com Web site.

Now, after learning of Hagele's situation -- he met with some legislators
while he was here -- state leaders are trying to do more.

After he heard Hagele's story, Sen. John Snow, a Democrat from Cherokee, started working with the state Attorney General's Office to draft legislation that would make it illegal for someone to publicize someone else's Social Security number. He hopes to attach it to a proposed bill during this session.

"This could happen to anybody," Snow said. "This is a malicious use of
personal information."

Hagele, meanwhile, did find some relief after he appealed to the companies that provide the services to sustain Burch's Web site. Among them was GoDaddy.com, which provides domain name registration services and has about 20 million domain names under management, including Burch's.

Burch said she removed the link after GoDaddy contacted her and told her she was violating its policy.

When I checked on Tuesday, the link was gone, and Hagele has not, as far as he knows, had his identity compromised. But he will constantly worry, now that the information has been put into cyberspace.

"This bell cannot be unrung," Hagele said.


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