JEFFERSON CITY — Officials who oversee Missouri's driver's license bureau assured lawmakers Monday that although they are digitally copying personal documents from applicants, none of that information is being shared with other entities.
A House committee convened a special hearing on Missouri's new driver's license procedures after a southeast Missouri man filed a lawsuit last week challenging a new requirement that documents, such as birth certificates and concealed weapons endorsements, be scanned into a state computer system. The suit raised concerns that personal details about gun owners could be shared with the federal government and others.
Lawmakers quizzed Department of Revenue officials Monday about why they adopted the new driver's license procedures and what happens with the information.
Deputy revenue director John Mollenkamp said the state recently began contracting with MorphoTrust USA to manufacture the licenses — instead of doing so at individual license offices — because the company could provide increased security features at a lower cost than the state. Among the procedural changes, local license clerks now scan the applicant's personal documents into a computer instead of just looking at them.
Those digital documents are then sent electronically along with other applicant information to a state data center. Mollenkamp said the scanned documents are retained by the state while other basic information is forwarded on to MorphoTrust. The contractor is supposed to delete the information after printing and mailing an individual's driver's license, he said.
Lobbyist Richard McIntosh, who was hired last week by MorphoTrust, said the Billerica, Mass.-based company takes the privacy and security of the information "very, very seriously" and doesn't share the data with other entities.
Under the new procedures, state employees perform spot checks on a small percentage of the documents — selecting around 50 applicants out of as many as 20,000 weekly — to verify their accuracy, Mollenkamp said.
State Rep. Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, compared the fraud checks performed by the state to "looking for a needle in a haystack."
Mollenkamp acknowledged that the odds of randomly coming across a fake document may be slim, but he said public knowledge that the state is collecting copies of personal documents could deter people from trying to fraudulently obtain licenses. The new procedures were implemented after federal charges were brought against nearly 20 people for their roles in obtaining licenses for as many as 3,500 illegal immigrants from a local license office employee in St. Joseph between November 2009 and January 2012.
Richardson is sponsoring legislation that would prohibit the Department of Revenue from digitally scanning or keeping copies of documents presented by applicants for driver's licenses or state identification cards. The bill also would require the department to destroy any documents that it already has obtained from applicants.
Some witnesses opposed to the new procedures suggested Monday during public testimony that the document-scanning process violated state laws protecting the privacy rights of applicants and prohibiting the department from collecting any information by which applicants "can be individually identified" without specific authority to do so under state law.