MANKATO — Several cities and counties in the Mankato area have been named as defendants in one of the latest lawsuits accusing public employees of abusing their access to driver's license information through a state database.
The lawsuit, filed by Twin Cities Fox 9 Morning News anchor Alix Kendall, claims her license information was accessed more than 3,800 times during a 10-year period through the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Driver and Vehicle Services database.
One of Kendall's attorneys, Jon Strauss of the Sapientia Law Group, speculated that many of the searches were the result of curiosity. At this point Strauss only knows what computers were used to access the information, not who was using the computer at the time.
"She was shocked and disgusted to learn she had been looked up more than 3,000 times," Strauss said. "We believe this is the largest data breach in Minnesota history. Ironically, these people have been snooping into her life, but we can't find out who they were until we start gathering discovery information."
Information that can be obtained through the DVS system includes current and former addresses, current and former driver's license photographs, weight, height and, possibly, Social Security and medical information, Strauss said. The filing also points out that Kendall's information was searched by name, not by her license plate numbers. So the searches didn't include police officers doing random traffic searches for stolen vehicles or people with arrest warrants.
Kendall is also claiming the individuals searching her name could find out her birth name, which she legally changed and is attempting to keep secret. However, that name can easily be found through a court search that is available to the general public on the Internet and in Minnesota courthouses.
A state audit completed last year found the DVS database is often searched by law enforcement officers for no legal reason. That has raised questions about whether that is a violation of federal law. There also have been dozens of lawsuits filed against public agencies by people claiming their driver's license information was being searched by public employees for no legal reason.