L. Polk & Co., Detroit, has appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court a decision that allows that state to withhold the sale of motor vehicle lists. On April 22, an Illinois appeals panel overturned a trial judge’s earlier ruling in the case that had favored Polk.
In January 1997, Secretary of State George H. Ryan halted the state’s 70-year practice of renting its driver’s-license and car-registration lists. List compiler Polk sued, arguing that Ryan did not have the authority to stop the sale, only the legislature did. In May 1997, Sangamon County Chief Circuit Judge Sue Myerscough agreed with the company.
But the Illinois Appellate Court found that state law “gives the secretary the discretion to decide under what circumstances to sell, or not sell, the lists.” The court also found that Ryan was not required to hold a public hearing on the question and that he had considered the policy’s effect on small business, as required by law.
“The appeals court stated very clearly that Secretary Ryan had the right to do this, and we’re certain that the Supreme Court will agree,” said Cathy Ritter, a spokeswoman in Ryan’s office.
Following Myerscough’s original decision, Ryan instituted-and widely publicized-an opt out for consumers to prevent their information from being divulged. According to Ritter, 525,000 of Illinois’ 7.7 million drivers had opted out when the appellate decision came down and the opt out was no longer needed.
After Myerscough ordered Illinois to continue to honor its relationship with Polk, the state put stringent penalties in the new contract, including a $10,000 fine for using data on people who opted out.