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S. Carolina Wants To End Photo Sale

January 28, 1999

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ The state wants to renege on its sale of 3.5 million driver’s license photos to a private company and went to court Wednesday to block their use following a public outcry about the plan.

Reacting to angry callers to radio shows and state departments, the governor also promised to make it easier for people to keep their photos from being sold.

The $5,000 sale of license photos for use only in fraud prevention was authorized by the Legislature, but Attorney General Charlie Condon said the state’s constitutional guarantee of privacy is more important. Condon filed suit to keep the photos from being used.

Image Data LLC, which is developing a fraud-prevention system, could get a partial refund, Condon said. A Circuit Court hearing was set for Feb. 4.

At Image Data in Nashua, N.H., spokeswoman Lorna Christie said the action caught the company by surprise.

Stores using its system to prevent check and credit-card fraud can get a person’s photo on a screen for eight seconds. It cannot be printed, modified or saved and is encrypted when it is sent to the store, and Image Data does not resell the photo, she said.

Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges said he ordered the Public Safety Department to create a form making it easy for drivers to put their pictures off-limits.

``South Carolina drivers will have the right to decide not to have their license photo sold to the highest bidder,″ he said.

The contract was signed in January 1998 under the administration of former Republican Gov. David Beasley, but was not publicized until a story Saturday in The Greenville News.

In 1997, legislators authorized the sale to raise extra money for Public Safety, which includes the Motor Vehicle Division and the Highway Patrol.

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