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S.C. Dept. Sued Over Licenses

March 19, 1999

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ South Carolina’s attorney general said Thursday he might drop a lawsuit against a state agency for sending Social Security numbers to a New Hampshire company because the company said it will delete the numbers from its fraud prevention system.

The Nashua, N.H.-based Data LLC also said it would delete driver’s license photos of the more than 80,000 South Carolinians who have opted out of the company’s database.

Image Data purchased 3.9 million South Carolina driver’s license photos for its system, which briefly shows merchants the picture of a credit card holder or check writer as a fraud deterrent.

After a public outcry when news of the sale broke, Attorney General Charlie Condon sued to get out of the contract. A judge has not ruled on that suit yet.

``I hope this means there’s a new spirit with the company,″ said Condon, who has asked Image Data President Robert Houvener company to switch to a system where people voluntarily opt in.

``A citizen’s Social Security number is one of his or her most important personal possessions,″ Condon said. ``It is the duty of state agencies to protect, not pawn, a person’s Social Security number.″

Although Houvener said Image Data did not request the numbers from the Public Safety Department, once the agency sent them, the company used them to distinguish between people with the same name.

Now the company will use other information _ like addresses _ to do that, he said.

Condon’s suit filed Thursday against the Public Safety Department raised questions about how one state agency can sue another.

``I don’t know who we’re going to get to defend us,″ Public Safety Director Boykin Rose said. ``Under the constitution, (Condon) is supposed to defend us.″

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