By Ashley Jost
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, expressed serious concerns about ethics and honesty during a hearing Wednesday where he questioned the Department of Revenue about the scanning of personal documents of those applying for some state licenses.
One of the committee’s primary concerns was the security of a Missourian’s personal information, Schaefer said. Currently, the department has contracted Morpho Trust U.S.A. — based out of Boston, Mass., instead of the previously reported Atlanta, Ga. — to scan and upload the documents.
Republicans have expressed concern with the company’s ties to the federal government, and fear uploading the documents may be their back door way of establishing a database of gun owners. Brian Long, director of the department, said that is simply not the case.
“Let me unequivocally say that the DOR does not share the source documents with any third party vendor,” Long said. “They’re retained in the state data center.”
Long and Deputy Director John Mollenkamp explained that the information was being retained in the data centers in order to check for duplicate names or photos to help catch any attempts of ID fraud.
Mollenkamp said once scanned, the documents went to a router, were encrypted into photo formats, and sent directly to the data center. The personal information on each person that was retained in the encrypted document included the person’s name, photo, and signature. Mollenkamp gave the committee members copies of a sample document, adding that since the purpose of the vendor is to print the license, the information they get for each person is contained in a folio with about 4,000 other people’s information.
Schaefer asked what the department does to ensure the information is destroyed after used for printing purposes, as part of the contract with the company includes them destroying that personal information. Mollenkamp said the department has received oral confirmation that the information was destroyed but has never written confirmation, to which Schaefer questioned why that was not an implemented policy.
“Is Morpho Trust audited by Homeland Security?” Schaefer asked. “Let me answer that for you: Yes, six times a year by Homeland Security. If that information is not destroyed then the Department of Homeland Security has access to that information six times a year.”
Mollenkamp said he understood how Schaefer could reach that conclusion, but said he does not believe that to be the case.
Schaefer then asked if the photos were only being used for biometric purposes, to which the DOR representatives reiterated that they were solely for the in-state purpose of limiting identification fraud.
“Spot check prevents a single dishonest clerk from doing something intentionally, or an honest clerk from making a mistake,” Mollenkamp added. “The scanning system would allow the DOR to present those pieces of physical evidence to prosecutors for those who have been caught.”
To that point, Schaefer asked if there was anything in the contract with Morpho Trust U.S.A. that prohibited them from doing those same biometrics.
“The contract is more than 1,000 pages,” Mollenkamp said. “I’m not sure.”
Mollenkamp also said the DOR received a grant from the Department of Homeland Security to purchase hole punches that were more than $100 each. He said these were used in certain instances to void certain IDs.
Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, said he did not understand why the department was making the system so complicated if the information they were collecting was presented to the department at one point during the past, and therefore should already be in the system.
“If an individual is trying to fraudulently obtain a license, they’re much less likely to do it if they know the information is going to be scanned and retained,” Long said. “A real problem in prosecuting these cases is there isn’t a lot of evidence.”
The hearing ended abruptly after Schaefer expressed concern of being told multiple different answers of the Department of Homeland Security’s involvement through grants to the DOR. He said the hearing would be continued at a later date. The date for future hearings were not set before adjournment for Spring Break.
Ashley Jost is no longer with The Missouri Times. She worked as the executive editor for several months, and a reporter before that.