A bill exempting taxpayers’ email addresses from the state’s open record law advanced in the Florida Senate on Wednesday. Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala argues the proposal protects consumers from scammers who use digital skills to defraud people. Latvala says he’s sponsoring the bill because tax collectors requested he do so.
Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner questioned the need for the legislation, asking what was “the perceived notion” that tax collectors had about identity theft?
Latvala said the open records exemption is needed because email addresses when combined with other personal information can be used for identity theft and other scams. The bill makes an email address provided to a tax collector exempt if it was provided for a citizen to receive a quarterly tax notice, or to obtain the citizen’s consent to send a tax notice.
“If someone goes on the website, pulls up your name, that your tax return — a facsimile of that tax return — is actually on the web. The concern is that someone can take that facsimile, recreate it, if they had your email address, send you an email, and say ‘if you’ll pay within the next 10 days, this bank account, this credit card, you get a 10 percent discount,’ and take advantage of people in a fraudulent way.”
He stressed that the exception only applies to email addresses that are provided to a tax collector in connection with a tax return.
Open government advocates have protested the measure. Barbara Petersen of the First Amendment Foundation last year told the Tampa Tribune there is no evidence that email addresses lead to identity theft.
Latvala pushed the measure last year; it passed the Senate but died in the House.
This year’s bill was placed on the Senate calendar for a third reading.