FTC: Consumer Privacy Comments Concerning LEXIS-NEXIS--P954807
SUPPLEMENTAL COMMENTS OF LEXIS-NEXIS
PUBLIC WORKSHOP ON CONSUMER INFORMATION
DATA BASE STUDY--COMMENT, P974806
Supplemental Comments of LEXIS-NEXIS
LEXIS-NEXIS submits these supplemental comments in response to several questions raised by the Commission during the June 10th Database Workshop with regard to elements of the Individual Reference Service Group (IRSG) principles: information regarding children and access by non-subscribing consumers to reference service information that may concern them.
Information About Children
It is LEXIS-NEXIS' policy not to display information about minors in P-TRAK and P-FIND, its two individual reference services based upon non-public information. In both instances, LEXIS-NEXIS works with its data suppliers to ensure that records of all people identifiable as minors are removed from these databases.
LEXIS-NEXIS' policy is reflected in the IRSG self-regulatory guidelines presented to the Federal Trade Commission in advance of the June 10th Database Workshop.
Public records present a different case than non-public information. Public records are generally available to anyone who walks into the governmental office that keeps the records, and may be available from the governmental agency on the Internet. Public record information is likewise on a very different legal plane than non-public information because access to public record information is subject to strong First Amendment protections.(1)
It is the policy of LEXIS-NEXIS to replicate accurately the public record systems it makes available. Some of these public record systems may include, in certain instances, information regarding minors who affirmatively engage in activities that are routinely recorded in significant public records. Information from these public records may be available through LEXIS-NEXIS and other service providers. For example, teenagers may have driver's licenses--and may be involved in auto accidents for which there is a compelling interest in obtaining their driving records. Minors may also own property through a trust that may be involved in a legal proceeding. As parties in personal injury or other litigation, minors may also be identified in court judgments and jury verdicts.
However, LEXIS-NEXIS displays neither birth records, nor public records that primarily contain information on minors. In fact, to the best of our knowledge, birth records are rarely, if ever, disseminated online, even though birth information is commonly published in newspapers around the country. Carole Lane, in her recent book Naked in Cyberspace: How to Find Personal Information Online, does not even list birth records among the records available online in her chapter on "Public Records." In the chapter on "Genealogical Records," she notes that birth information is usually obtained through name searches in birth record indices; she does not identify any birth record database, CD-ROM product, or Web site where searches can be carried out by birthdate.
Consumer Access to Information About Them
The IRSG self-regulatory guidelines presented to the Federal Trade Commission require individual reference service companies to help consumers to understand what information about them may be contained in the databases they make available to customers.
For public record information, such as land records, and publicly available records, such as telephone directory data, LEXIS-NEXIS plans to respond to inquiries by informing consumers about the types of public record information that the service maintains and the source of that information. For example, by learning that LEXIS-NEXIS offers retrieval of land records and telephone information, a person will know that information about a property that she owns and her address and telephone number (if published in a white pages directory) can be retrieved from the LEXIS-NEXIS databases. By learning from LEXIS-NEXIS that the Montgomery County Recorder of Deeds is the original source of the land record information, a person will know who she needs to contact about any inaccuracies that may exist in the record.
For P-TRAK, LEXIS-NEXIS has decided that, within a year and for a nominal fee, it will make available, upon an individual's request, a copy of his or her P-TRAK record or records. The program will be implemented after the company institutes the capability to handle consumer requests and implements adequate security measures to ensure that a person receives only his or her record. Although this is more than what is required by the IRSG self-regulatory guidelines presented to the Federal Trade Commission, LEXIS-NEXIS knows that this type of an approach is being considered by other members of industry.
In the meantime, LEXIS-NEXIS will respond to inquiries by informing an individual that P-TRAK does or does not contain a file matching the identifying information that the individual submits, and that the Trans Union credit reporting agency is the source of the information.
1. 1 See, e.g. Appendix to the IRSG White Paper, at 1-9.