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Utah Lawmakers Grapple With Driver License Data

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah drivers expressed concerns to KSL Investigators about the amount and nature of the data that the Utah Driver License Division has been providing the University of Utah for decades – without people knowing.

“I guess I would wonder what would have been their obligation to let people know,” said Utah driver John Smith.

Chris Caras, Director of Utah Department of Public Safety Driver License Division, said the public wasn’t told about it.

“It was initiated by executive order in 1982,” he said. “I don’t believe that there was ever a charge that said we had to because of the logistical issues associated with it.”

The Utah Population Database was established in the 1970s, when Scott Mattheson was governor. Every governor since has signed off on the data release. That list of governors includes Scott M. Matheson, Norman H. Bangerter, Mike Leavitt, Olene Walker, Jon Huntsman, Jr. and Gary Herbert.

Every year the Driver License Division sends the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute your height, weight, your social security number, and even your mother’s maiden name.

Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Syracuse, said that’s a problem.

“That’s every bit of information that you need to break into someone’s bank account, right?” she said.

She’s introducing House Bill 183.

“The idea is just to notify, yes, your data is being transferred and shared,” she said.

The issue got attention last session when Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, introduced a bill that put the data practice into law.

The Huntsman Cancer Institute said people’s information is safe and secure. Only about ten people have access to the information.

Dr. Mary Beckerle, CEO Huntsman Cancer Institute said the database has advanced health.

“All of the data are encrypted, so even if somebody were to look at it, if I were to look at it, I would just see gobbledygook,” Beckerle said. “This information helps us to prevent cancer, helps us to find people who need screenings so that we can detect it early, and it’s also helped us develop new treatments for cancer.”

Lisonbee doesn’t dispute the institute’s success.

“My argument isn’t with the Huntsman Cancer Institute and the important work they’re doing,” Lisonbee said. “I think most people would want to be part of that. But we just need to have information and consent.”

The latest version of Lisonbee’s bill would create an “opt-out” measure.

Some drivers agree it should be a choice.

“I don’t think that’s a bad idea,” said Spencer Gatten.

Another Utah driver, Jacklyn Williams, said she wants to make the decision.

“Let us make the decision whether we want to do that or not,” she said. “I think it’s pretty simple – let’s pass the bill.”

Others say it’s a difficult question.

“It’s disturbing, but I also know the flipside of what it does for research,” said Diana Cabrales.

HB 183 stalled Wednesday in the House Transportation Committee amid concerns that allowing Utahns to decide whether their personal information could be transferred to the university could jeopardize crucial health research.




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