Public resource or privacy invasion?
A Sacramento newspaper has come under fire for publishing information on California state workers. Names, salaries, job classifications and work locations have been made available through a searchable database on the newspaper's Web site.
The issue of most concern has been the privacy of state employees. By including the names and work locations of the workers, claim some, such a database could jeopardize the safety of individuals whose information is made available.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000 President Jim Hard and California State Employees Association (CSEA) President Dave Hart met with the Sacramento Bee's editorial staff last week.
Following the meeting, Hard said The Bee was not receptive to removing names, even when a state workers' safety is an issue.
"They won't guarantee the name will be removed from the database," Hard said following the meeting. "I'm disgusted by the paper's crass commercialism and callous disregard for our members' safety."
"We have considered this issue again today in light of the complaints but do not believe we are publishing information that could not easily be obtained from other public sources," countered The Bee said in a statement. "State workers' names and locations, for instance, are available online through the state government employee directory. So is other information, such as employees' e-mail addresses, that we have not published."
Susan, a CalTrans manager, says she doesn't remember signing away her privacy when she became a state worker.
"I was sickened when I saw what was on there," she said. "I felt like I can be tracked down by people I worked with and I feel like I'm vulnerable."
The database was designed as a public resource, The Bee explained.
"The Bee did not set out to embarrass anyone or to invade anyone's privacy -- government pay is public record, not private information," claimed The Bee. "In California, salary data is public information, and some of this information has been published previously by The Bee along with other publications or by government entities."
"If they wanted the public to have information, they could have listed the positions, number of people in those positions and salary range," said Debbie, an employee of the Franchise Tax Board. "[The Bee] should not have published names and where the people worked."
"Our union is in favor of access of information to the public and I don't have an issue with the salaries being available on this database," Hard said. "But the names of our members being on the database -- what is the news value in that?"