[IP] Ruling on Doe v Chao [ for IP list]

Dave Farber dave at farber.net
Tue Feb 24 14:35:36 PST 2004

-----Original Message-----
From: janice at e-mailamerica.net
Date: Tue, 24 Feb 2004 14:32:50
To:Dave Farber <dave at farber.net>
Subject: Ruling on Doe v Chao [ for IP list]


The Supreme Court handed down its decision on the important Doe v Chao
case today; please see attached. --

Court Protects Gov't From Privacy Suits
Associated Press
Tue Feb 24,12:29 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court made it tougher Tuesday to make the
government pay for revealing someone's Social Security (news - web
sites) number and other personal information.

Justices ruled 6-3 against a coal miner who sought $1,000 in damages
after his Social Security number was revealed. He sued under the
Privacy Act, a 1974 law which prohibits routine data collection on
ordinary Americans and protects people from having their government
records intentionally disclosed.

The Supreme Court said the Virginia man, known as Buck Doe, had to
prove that the government's violation of the privacy law actually
harmed him.

Justice David H. Souter, writing for the majority, said it is not
enough to argue that someone suffers "presumed damages" when
information about them is improperly made public.

At issue was the Labor Department (news - web sites)'s handling of
black lung disease claims. The department used miners' Social Security
numbers as case numbers and then published the numbers in reports that
became part of computerized legal research databases.

In a dissent that was longer than the ruling in the case, Justice Ruth
Bader Ginsburg (news - web sites), joined by Justices John Paul Stevens
(news - web sites) and Stephen Breyer (news - web sites), said that the
miner was emotionally damaged by the government's mistake.

He should not have to prove out-of-pocket expenses, Ginsburg said, like
fees for credit reports to ensure his identity was not stolen, or
costly prescription drugs for anxiety.

The case is Doe v. Chao, 02-1377

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