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California to sell wage data to companies 112

jpatters writes "CNN is reporting that the state of California will be selling confidential wage data to private companies. They hope to raise $15 million over the next decade. Read the full story "Yeargh-I love governments blurring the line between my life and companies.
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California to sell wage data to companies

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  • Did anyone actually bother to read the proposed legislation?
    The data will not be handed out, however, without the written permission of the individual.
    That's a pretty solid piece of protection, there.

    You're kidding right? All that means is that every credit, rent, insurance, or employment application will also now include language signing away privacy of your employment data.

  • This would explain fed taxes, but I'm not sure if the state gets a full copy of the fed taxes. Have I said IANAL? Oh. Good. I just did...

    So if you pay your Fed taxes, but not state, you may be able to get away with this as an excuse. You've paid your federal taxes, so there's no reason for the feds to come down on you.

    Not in CA, not going to try it. Find your own lawyer. Not valid in all states. Hold away from hands. Not plummet please.
  • as far as I can recall, when you get a driver's license you are actually agreeing to a contract, in which you waive certain rights. also, when you break a traffic law (ie. clause in the contract) you are not entitled to a trial by jury, but instead are only tried by a judge, since your offense is only a breach-of-contract. I wonder what other kinds of things have this sort of crap tied in. my 2 cents.
  • Not necessarily a bad thing. After all, they must have my written consent.

    Problem is, they'll pass it by saying that this protects you from having it happen if you don't want it to. Then you'll find that you have to give this permission in order to get a driver's license or file a tax return, etc.

  • Not necessarily a bad thing. After all, they must have my written consent.
    Also think about how many times you have handed over income info voluntarily to commercial entities already.

    Having said all that, I still have nagging doubts that there will be slip-ups and just plain against-the-rules actions on the part of the responsible people.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This kind of shit is why I moved from California to Oregon. A classic case in point: Several years ago, much to their suprise, the CA state goverment had a surplus in tax revenue. Governor Deukmajian held a press conference to tell people all his wonderful plans for the money. This little old retired schoolteacher chimed in with the comment "but by the state constitution, aren't you supposed to rebate that money to the taxpayers?" The Gov's ill-considered response: "Yes, but we've got forty lawyers working on a way around that right now."

    Quite a concept: The state government, spending a great deal of taxpayer money on lawyers in order to look for a way to VIOLATE THE CONSTITUTION and get away with it!!!!

    I've found Oregon to be much less corrupt...
  • Your salary data is your property, not the states. The fees for that data should go to you, not the state.

    The best way to control this sort of thing is to take away the money. How about a class-action suit against companies that sell your data to recover profits that should be rightfully yours.


  • Posted by Uncle Humph:

    Yeah, the next time the government says they wish to collect information only to be used for good and virtuous purposes, look at it with a jaundiced eye. DNA banks, encryption keys, clipper chips, embedded registration, are all examples of having our privacy invaded by the very entity which is supposed to protect it.
  • This needs to be halted.

    I bet if CA threatened to sell the profit/loss figures for privately held corporations (which of course they know) then that would be stopped Real Quick.
  • by Anonymous Coward


    End of story.

    This is free enterprise. The state of CA has something to sell, and somebody wants to buy it. If you gave them your information, that's your problem. It's theirs now. Deal with it.

    I've heard enough socialist whining about this. It's legitimate business. Shut up and get out of the way. It doesn't concern you. If any problems arise, the free market will correct them.

  • In the US, you apply to a lender, any lender, so long as you want to do business with them. Even the bank where your money winds up (i.e. paycheck deposit, electronic, etc) requires that you tell them income.

    On every credit card app. I've ever seen, there's a box: "Annual Income" You can also opt to put more or less in the "Secondary Income" box.

    So, tell me, can you switch banks easily?
  • Wouldn't this information belong to your employer, since they "created" it? You simply agree to it. Who really cares if someone knows your salary? When can it be used against you in a way it isnt now (credit,etc.)?
  • And yet the junk mail just keeps coming...
  • surely you jest, ac
  • "The Man" is a bit vague. Certainly many folk already know many parts of that, and guess the rest. This, however, is a different matter. This restricts the variance in the sample data collection, which allows for much simpler and more powerful statistical tools to be applied. Ten years ago the census data wasn't available for ANYTHING at less than a block-face level. And financial data was only available at higher levels of aggregation. That's why all these private companies sprang up to collect the same information. So now the state is planning to put them out of business.
    I don't even classify that as Socialism, which someone else claimed. I don't know what to call State-owned Monopoly enterprise. Maybe that is a form of Socialism. I'm sure that if this effort is successful, that we will see further extensions of the principle.
  • Honestly, I can't remember what the budget of
    California is, but this invasion of our privacy
    is supposed to raise "$15 million over the next
    decade"??? What kind of idiot politician
    decided to come up with a program that any
    fool KNOWS would cause controversy but would
    only raise a measly $15 million?

    Amd where, pray tell, would those revenues
    be going?

    If government didn't spend so much money,
    then it might not spend so much time
    thinking up new ways to invade our lives
    for profit.
  • Unlike California, Texas does not have a state income tax (a big reason why I live here). How does the Texas state government get wage information on its citizens? Is federal income tax info forwarded by the federal government to the Texas state government?

    The article said that Texas sells _similar_ data, which makes me think that the data may be more along the lines of driver's license, vehicle registration, or birth certificate info. I don't think it's terribly hard to obtain someone's home address based on their license plate number, for example.

    Either way, the selling of personal information by a local government is incredibly intrusive. It alarms me that elected officials have the cajones to even suggest such an idea, let alone implement it.
  • that I work in CA only on contract basis. They'll never get good numbers.
  • "That's because we're not shooting them on campus anymore."

    Nowadays the students are so busy shooting each other on campus that the government just can't get a shot in edgewise.

  • Why can't a government be useful for something for a change? If I wanted my personal data sold to the highest bidder, I'd sell it myself. I don't personally mind the lack of privacy so much as the fact that someone else is getting rich on my data -- without my permission. Instead of outlawing vaguely-defined net obscenities and swear words, how about actually protecting citizens? (And I hate spam as much as the next person. I feel it should be covered under the telecom act which banned fax spam. Especially email that attempts to sell items or pornography -- how would you feel if your kid got email like that? At least if it's on the web they have to actively seek it out. Spam is target-blind and you should have to opt-in to receive it.)

    I'd like to see some legislation outlawing the sale or share of personal data by corporations without consent or compensation.

    This is exploitation, pure and simple. You can't even opt out of giving your information to a state or federal government.
  • 1984 is just 15 years late.

    thats ok, the government never does anything on schedule...

    1984 is probably over budget too :)
  • In North Carolina, you must fill out a form requesting that the state not disclose this information in order to "turn it off". The government is supposed to protect it's citizens from this kind of wholesale invasion of privacy. Instead, they want in on this crookedness.
  • Or can any citezen pay a fee for information and get it?

    Could be very useful. If a company can get the data, why not anyone?
  • Posted by generic kewl tech reference:

    I DIDN'T give this information to the state. They collected it from my employer without me having any say in it, unless I just happened to miss the 'opt out of unemployment insurance' option when I was hired.

    It's not legitimate business if I sell information that doesn't belong to me. If I start using my CD-R to run off copies of Windows 95 and selling them, how well to you think "Well, you gave me the CD-ROM, people want to buy it, it's mine now, deal with it" is going to go over?

    And yes, I know we're dealing with copyright laws that don't make my example that simple or applicable, but I still think there's a valid point there.

    And, while I'm ranting in a paranoid frenzy, didn't Machiavelli say that no group or person willingly gives up political power?
  • Well, like I said: they would be less likely to raise your PA taxes.

    And I'm not sure what your situation is exactly, but you're probably benefiting somehow from PA services.


  • "...When do the state officals come up forsale?"

    During the fundraising portion of every election cycle, but it's a private, by invitation only sale, closed to the public and the press as much as possible.
  • Excuse me? "My written consent"? Who must have your written consent? How did they get it?
    I have never willingly provided salary information to anyone. Does "the state" have my consent if they say "agree or starve", and I feign agreement? Not hardly, no matter what it shows on the written page.
    True, there have been worse violations. That doesn't make this good, desireable, worthy, etc.
  • ...this is a Bad Thing(tm).

    And to think, TX (where I am) has been doing it for years.

  • Oregon's legislature only meets every other year. A wonderful way to reduce the damage that the gov't can do.

    Frankly, I like the idea proposed by Heinlein in, I believe, _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_. He (or rather, one of his characters, probably Laz. Long) proposed a bicameral legislature with one body to create laws (with a 2/3 majority) and the second body to repeal laws (with just a simple majority).
  • If you're a citizen of the state, money raised is in a sense your money. I realize that that's an idealized view, but even in a pragmatic sense: the government is going to get money somewhere, and if not from this, it's going to be from raising taxes.


  • My landlord gets US$750.00 out of my every month by threatening to withhold my privilege of living in his building.

    You were saying?

    Government withholds privileges by sending men
    with guns to stop your enjoyment of privileges.
    Your landlady may have a gun, but cannot use it
    in the same way. There may be specific circumstances where the landlady has recourse to
    the law, but only in extreme cases will men with
    guns be involved.
  • i like when people are forming communities but only as long as it is for good purpose: when all member benefits. the "ultimate" goal (at least for now, while we do not know any extraterrestials :) should be the global earth community.

    maybe governments have the same goal (they are people too) but they make it wrong way: mostly, they are making communities (a.k.a nations, states, ...) where (almost) everybody works (produce value) BUT only small group is taking profit (mostly politicians themselves + rich and/or powerfull people).
    this private-info-selling is perfect example of such attitude.

    and why they are doing so? are they braind-damaged? do they forget that they are people and citizens too?
    power corrupts.

    that's why we have to watch our politicians very close and carefully, give them advices AND criticize them when they do something wrong. and (of course) take more action when they are ignoring us.

    democracy is not perfect but something better has not been invented yet (nor taken in practise). but we have to try to achieve better living. at least for our children (and their children, ...).

    why do people bring children to live when they cause them suffer then? (why i'm asking that? take a look at poluted environment, screwed laws, dumb policies, problems solved short-sightedly, ...)

  • From: your name [you@big-company.com]
    Subject: wage data sales
    To: eddcomm@edd.ca.gov [mailto]


    I understand (from an L.A. Times article, reported on www.cnnfn.com)
    that you plan to begin selling wage data to banks and other
    businesses in the near future. As reported, you will require my
    written authorization to sell information about me, but I am concerned
    that I have already inadvertently given that permission.

    Please let me know whether your department has any information about
    me in its files, and whether you have explicit or implicit permission
    to sell that information (whether or not you currently have it).
    Also, please tell me how to withhold, in perpetuity, my authorization
    for release to any non-government entity.

    Thank you,

    Your Name
    Your Address
    Your Phone
  • Probably not. The Wall Street Journal had and article the other day about courts dismissing cases that use dubious logic ("I'm a citizen of the state, not the US", "income taxes are illegal/immoral etc.") to challenge tax laws (federal ones) and even fining the plaintiffs. But then again IANAL.
  • Are names attached to salary data, or is it just going to be anonymous data about how much workers at certain companys earn, etc? If my name's not attached, I couldn't care less. I'd die of embarassment if someone found out how much I was making.
  • The state should keep a database of how many which citizens' salaries were queried, and then every quarter mail them a check for like 15% of the gross. Or at the very least use it as a tax deduction.

    I'm curious--how is this any different from me copying a movie off HBO and then selling the tape for 10 bucks?
  • Names are definitely attached. The purpose, they claim, is so that bankers and such can more quickly verify loan applications and the like. That would be pretty useless if the data was all anonymous...
  • I pay penn state taxes.

    I am a citizen of massachusetts. I live in NJ

    how would I benefit if penn sold my salary info?

    just wondering

  • I'd rather they raise taxes then to sell my personal data without my permission. There is *no* excuse for invasion of my privacy by any body, governmental or private.
  • by TA ( 14109 )
    Loans? Most of the time you get them in the bank where your wages end up (I don't know about all countries on this side but it's pretty common that the employer will only pay you through a bank).
    So the bank knows all ins and outs already :-)
  • Now what's really missing is free access to data collected by the state about us. Europeans have that, and it is scary how much BS needs to be corrected sometimes when an individual takes the time and effort to check.
    Then again, I prefer for them to sell BS to companies rather than the truth about me ;-)
  • well, the reason I pay penn state taxes is because I work here...

    I get to use their roads... thats about it

    people around here use NJ roads without paying NJ taxes so thats not saying a hell of a lot

    its just a somewhat tricky situation. their are many variables to be considerd

    that, and Im not sure I like the idea at all... at least it is an opt in situation
  • "If I wanted my personal data sold to the highest bidder, I'd sell it myself. "

    It's not the highest bidder: it's any bidder who's willing to pay what the great state of California wants. Just another day in the land of the fee and the home of the slave.

  • Well, your employer might have something to say about who they want looking at salary data.

    For example, back when I worked at Pixar, someone who had physical access to a Mac in Payroll mailed everybody's salaries to everybody else. That's the basis of the IBM "hacker" commercial. It got a lot of people at Pixar very rightfully annoyed.

    It's ,i>your personal data, though. The usual argument against it is the "slippery slope" one, first salary data, then medical data, then even more personal stuff. Then you're Winston Smith.


  • by Poe ( 12710 ) on Friday June 04, 1999 @09:51AM (#1866963) Homepage
    The arguments that one should be paid for the information are basically invalid. The state of California has to use these revenues for it's own programs, meaning that the citizens of California will theoretically get more value from their state government.

    On the other hand, this information wasn't volunteered, so it should be freely available to all or protected from the prying eyes of all. Anything else would be economic favoritism.
  • Example: You work for a company that has a policy you don't agree with (shocking, right?). Namely, that you may not work for anyone else while you work for them.

    You reason that what you do in your spare time is your business, and take the occasional contract job.

    Your employer gets all the tax data from the state, and discovers your little indiscresion(s). You're fired.

    Life sucks for you.
  • Ok, I'm not arguing that. Just noting that if you're a citizen of the state, the state's money is in a sense your money.

    And if you read the article, btw, it says data won't be sold without your permission.


  • http://www.assembly.ca.gov/acs/acsf rameset9.htm [ca.gov]

    talk to 'em, my fellow californians...
    : tedd
  • Oregon is just in the process of selling off your genetic data to companies. (Not to mention all of the information on your drivers license...)

    The reason Oregon does not do this is that they are too busy squabling over preventing Gay marriages and acting tough on crime.
  • Well, I just called my asseblywoman's office, and they said that a lot of people are calling to complain. Once can hope, I guess...
  • Did anyone actually bother to read the proposed legislation?

    The data will not be handed out, however, without the written permission of the individual.

    That's a pretty solid piece of protection, there. Frankly, there are thousands of infinitely more horrifying compromises of our privacy out there - like the sharing of our medical information by insurers for the purpose of *denying us coverage* for existing conditions - but since that happens in the private sector, it doesn't get the same "1984"-ish read.

    Much public information about all of us is already publicly available, due to the FOIA. Our legal histories and our property holdings, for example.

  • by TA ( 14109 )
    >Also think about how many times you have handed over income info
    >voluntarily to commercial entities already.
    Whatwhatwhatwhat?? Is this a common thing to do in the U.S.? On this other side of the pond it's *not* common. If some "commercial entity" had asked me to tell them my income I would have told them to go **** themselves, as would 99% of the people I know.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The UK has a law about this that protects citizens and makes what California did illegal...
  • How do you get loans on that side of the pond?
  • I've heard that the companies requesting data will be expected to seek permission from the people they are seeking data on. But Caliornia has no plans to enforce this requirement, except through the honor system.

    Their greed will get the better of them. I wonder how many years it will be until some bright Senator gets the idea that the Census Bureau could sell personal (rather than demographic) data to the highest bidders.

  • Actually - according to an article [nando.net] in the NandoTimes [nando.net] there
    are answers to many of the questions posed.
    1. The customers for the data will be Banks, lenders and Car dealers (probably others)
    2. The party requesting the data will be responsible for gaining permission. (and it is based on an honor system. So the state will "believe" them if they say they have permission)

    There will be auditors checking that they really have permission, but this will be on a spot basis and as far as I am concerned hardly provides any real protection to the individual.

    With this kind of program in effect, it may soon be the case that you are refused a loan if you refuse to let the government make money off your information.
  • With nation-wide ISP's, they won't know that some people don't live in

    Which is why letters or phone calls would be far more persuasive. A letter with a return address in the legislators district is probably worth a few hundred emails.
  • Every employer(in California and Texas at least, and I think in other states) is already required to send this information to a state agency for calculation and verification of unemployment benefits, not taxes.
  • Wait a minute. What do they mean similar materials? I've been working in MN for four years now and never heard of this before. Does anyone know exactly what the rules are these other states are following?

    This might explain why I keep on getting junk mail from banks wanting to sell me a mortgage on my house while I still live in an apartment.

    Stay clear of MN. This state sucks.
  • >The arguments that one should be paid for the information are basically invalid. The state of California has to use these revenues for it's own programs, meaning that the citizens of California will theoretically get more value from their state government.

    No value can be gained by a citizenry when their ruling body elects to sell private information given over by a trusting public that expects said data to remain confidential. Just as no value can be gained by a citizenry when they are forced to give over their hard earned wages in the form of taxes. Our government is far too large and intrusive now. As long as we allow a misguided and corrupt oligarchy to take our freedoms and funds, we will not be served.

    JL Culp
    Chairman, Libertarian Party of Sumner County

    If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; and posterity forget that ye were our countrymen. --Samuel
  • Yes, would someone be kind enough to write an appropriate email on why this sucks, that we can all copy and send. With nation-wide ISP's, they won't know that some people don't live in California. Let's all rally for privacy!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Nice to know that Big companies run america, you remember all the american hype about BIG BROTHER? i got an AOL CD sent to me recently, with MY name and the address, ive called AOL to disclose where they got my information from, they refused said it was a random thing, random my ass, i will not tollerate some asshole making money off me, disclosing my private details, so ive instructed my lawyer to send them a letter requesting information they have on me, this is legal for me to do in australia, and europe, i suggest you americans get off your asses and stop your government from doing this stupid thing, otherwise the "LINE" will be pushed back further and further, so pretty soon theyll know everything about you, the government i can understand, BUT A COMPANY????? what gives them the right, free enterprise is only good for the rich.
  • This may be a disturbing thought to ya'll but the government has become a corporation like any other. They just want to make money any way possible, including marketing deals. This is not surprising, since this past century in the US has turned our country from a constitution-based society to a quasi-socialist corporation. "Civil" rights are held against constitutional rights, and the freedom to follow the bill of rights is being shut off day by day. 1984 is just 15 years late.
  • California has implied consent to give any driver licensed there a test to determine blood alchol. I wonder how soon that your permission for this giving out of your data is just that voluntary.

    "Oh, you implied you gave your consent when you began working in this state. Didn't you see the fine print that is supposed to be displayed at your employers?"
  • To flesh this out a little more, it's more important than you think. If you start your professional career at a given wage, and each successive employer has access to your previous wage, what's the first thing that's likely to happen? The offers you receive won't be based on the VALUE of the work you'll be doing for them, it will be based on what THEY consider to be a "reasonable" increase over what you made at your previous employer. If your previous employer was one of those, "we don't pay very well, but the work is VERY interesting" types, you're going to have a VERY hard time making up for this. Also, what if you happen to be in a situation where you had to accept a position for LESS money than you made previously, and then moved on to another job, where you might be justified in asking for substantially more? Would a prospective employer be within reason to ask you WHY you moved to a job that payed less? This would seem to open the possibility for all kinds of meddlesome questions.
  • Remember the uproar when states tried to sell driver's license photos. This one will be even worst. The people who proposed it either have been living on the other side of the moon or have IQ's lower than the room temperature.
  • Well, if they paid ME to get my information then it would not be so bad. Figure that if they are going to get 5-10 bucks per person/request, let em send me $1 per transaction that involves my information. Afterall, there should be some incentive to allow the govt to disseminate our personal data.
  • Except that under free enterprise, the government cannot engage in commercial business.
    Christopher A. Bohn
  • There is such a sense of jaded cynicism these days, carefully cultivated by the media. "Bah! look what the Government is doing now, not that anyone expected any less. Oh well, what can you do?" Voter turn out is so low it's a joke. Media, Inc. has everyone convinced it's pointless. About the only thing you can get college students to protest about these days is beer and drugs. There was a funny article over at The Onion [theonion.com] recently called " American People Ruled Unfit to Govern [theonion.com]."

    The sad fact is that we get exactly the government that we deserve.

  • Well then theres a violation of the 5th amendment. The state is obtaining what may be (this is the lynchpin) your IP without paying you. I should mention this to my dad, he does eminent domain law (although real property, not intellectual)

    Heck, you might want to tie this in with the Echelon thing, along with the 4th amendment (and possibly others)

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