Chapter 2: The United States
Priscilla M. Regan In 1989, a young California actress, Rebecca Shaeffer, was stalked and shot to death by an obsessed fan who obtained her home address from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The death of this celebrity drew media attention to the problem of stalking and to the myriad databases of personal information that could be used to find someone. In this case, the focus of attention turned to drivers’ license records, maintained by the 50 states and considered in most states to be a public record database that could be accessed for a fee. In 1994 Congress passed the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) to restrict access to such information including name, address, telephone number, photograph, and medical or disability information. The DPPA was introduced in the Senate by Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and in the House by Jim Moran (DVA) both of whom had constituents who had been victims of releases of information from state DMVs. Direct marketers, private investigators and the media all lobbied against the DPPA. As soon as the law became effective in September 1997, the state of South Carolina sued claiming that the law violated the Tenth Amendment which states that powers not delegated to Congress are reserved to the states. A federal district court in South Carolina agreed and enjoined enforcement of the DPPA in South Carolina stating that ‘the states have been, and remain, the sovereigns responsible for maintaining motor-vehicle records, and these records constitute property of the states’. The Court...
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