Washington’s public records rules legitimately favor disclosure of records about public affairs. This serves democracy and honest governance. Washington state Senate Bill 6079 proposes to exclude the birth dates of public employees from public records disclosure requirements. In light of a steadily rising tide of identity theft, this bill is a no-brainer.
Yet apparently the bill is necessary. The Freedom Foundation, a conservative activist group, has filed a public records request for the names and birthdays of every state employee in Washington — and has gone to court to try to enforce this request. It is difficult to see the legitimate purpose of this request. Birthdays have no bearing on state workers’ performance or conduct.
And employee birthdays have nothing to do with the legitimate public interest in public disclosure of records that document the conduct of the public’s business. Neither do state workers’ home addresses, employee numbers, private phone numbers, social security numbers, email addresses, marital status, and social media account information. Bottom line, all private records are just that — private -- and in the age of identity theft they must be treated that way.
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Let light shine on public affairs. But let us also protect the privacy of every citizen and resident, and that includes public servants. I urge you to contact your Washington state lawmakers to support Senate Bill 6079 and explore the need to broaden it to include private records other than birthdays.