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Data breach victim settles with state, attorneys say

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: February 5, 2013 - 6:02 PM

Updated at 6:01 p.m.

The state has agreed to conduct better audits and impose more safeguards of the often-misused drivers license database in a settlement with a former cop whose data was repeatedly breached, her attorneys said Thursday.

The settlement between Anne Marie Rasmusson and the Department of Public Safety is one of the last dominos to fall in a case that has cost local governments across the state more than $1 million. Rasmusson’s success has prompted a slew of class action lawsuits related to other incidents of drivers license data misuse.

Sonia Miller-Van Oort, one of Rasmusson’s attorneys with Sapientia Law Group, said they reached a binding settlement agreement and were finalizing the paperwork, which has not been signed. A Department of Public Safety spokesman, Bruce Gordon, said he could not comment on ongoing litigation. When asked if they were denying that a settlement was reached, Gordon said, "It’s still in litigation."

Miller-Van Oort said Tuesday that the settlement with the state centers on reforms to the database, rather than a payout. They will be seeking attorney’s fees, however, which could be substantial.

Rasmusson, a former St. Paul and Eden Prairie cop, filed the expansive suit after learning that officers in agencies had accessed her drivers license data hundreds of times – presumably without a work purpose. That database, which contains photographs, addresses and driving records on Minnesotans with a license, is protected by state and federal law against illegitimate use.

Among stipulations of Rasmusson’s settlement, according to Miller-Van Oort: The state will start performing monthly audits of the top search targets, rather than merely the most-active users, to identify anomalies.

They will also audit the top 50 most-active users and perform randomized audits, Miller-Van Oort said. Gordon said the department began monthly auditing of the top 50 users last year and initiated randomized audits in January.

A modified login screen will present new information about permissible uses and require users to confirm that they have a legitimate purpose. The settlement also requires the state to augment data training.

Rasmusson had sued the commissioner of public safety, Mona Dohman, as well as the former commissioner, Michael Campion. Dohman and Campion filed a brief in federal court Monday withdrawing a motion to dismiss the case.

Rasmusson's attorneys are not done pursuing DVS cases. They announced on Tuesday that they were joining another firm, Sieben Grose Von Holtum & Carey, in a suit seeking class action status against the state for last month's Department of Natural Resources data breach.

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