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JACOBS’ THREATENS LAWSUIT TO SHUTDOWN WEBSITE REVEALING PISTOL PERMIT RECORDS



Thursday, June 6, 2013

CLERK TELLS GOOGLE WEBSITE IS IN VIOLATION OF STATE LAW

Erie County, NY – County Clerk Chris Jacobs is expanding his effort to protect the privacy rights of Erie County Pistol Permit holders by trying to force the shutdown of what he calls an “illegal website” that reveals the identities and addresses of hundreds of thousands of pistol permit holders in New York State, including many Erie County residents.

“My office will be spending a lot of time and resources processing the over 25,000 ‘opt-out’ forms of Erie County pistol permit holders to respect their right to privacy, yet we still have this other website that makes some of these very records available for the public to see. We believe this is a violation of state law and we hope that Google will voluntarily pull the plug on this website,” says Clerk Jacobs.

The website Jacobs is targeting was formerly known as www.whospackingny.com. Although now defunct, Google (as well as other search engine sites- MSN, Yahoo and AOL) continues to maintain and allow public access to the “whospackingny” databases of hundreds of thousands of pistol permit records through a mirrored website.

In a letter to Google requesting that they voluntarily take down the website, Jacobs states “The Databases unlawfully assemble and disseminate the names and home addresses of New York pistol permit holders, in violation of those citizens’ privacy rights and New York Law.”

Jacobs states that this database was provided to “whospackingny” by the New York State Police several years ago after receiving a Freedom of Information Request (FOIL). The new gun law in New York, The SAFE ACT, now expressly prohibits such FOIL requests of the State’s Gun Registry. Therefore, if “whosepackingny” made such a request today it would be in violation of the Safe Act. Jacobs argues that each time the website refreshes, it’s akin to posting it for the first time and therefore is a violation of the NY SAFE Act.

County Clerk Jacobs also asserts that posting the names of pistol permit holders who have filed the new “opt-out” forms are clearly infringing on their wishes and rights to privacy.

Jacobs will be discussing this issue with Clerks throughout the State of New York. “I know most of my fellow Clerks, like me, take seriously their responsibility as stewards of these records.” Jacobs believes there is a high likelihood of a unified legal action with all the Clerks throughout the State of New York if Google does not voluntarily take the website down.

“While investigating this website’s information we have identified over 9,000 Erie County pistol permit holders residential information listed,” added County Clerk Jacobs. “This is unacceptable and I believe completely undermines the privacy provision put forth in the NY SAFE Act.”

Erie County has over 60,000 pistol permits. Several thousand Erie County pistol permit holders are currently listed on the website. Over 25,000 Erie County pistol permit holders have filed “opt-out” forms with the Erie County Clerk to have their pistol records protected from FOIL requests. To obtain an Erie County “opt-out” form permit holders can go to www.erie.gov/optout.