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IDNYC Data Not Shredded Yet as New Lawsuit Keeps Personal Info in Limbo

By Nicholas Rizzi | May 2, 2017 4:34pm
 Assembly members Castorina and Malliotakis filed a second suit against the IDNYC data in Manhattan.
Assembly members Castorina and Malliotakis filed a second suit against the IDNYC data in Manhattan.
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DNAinfo/Trevor Kapp

NEW YORK CITY — Personal information used to apply for the IDNYC program — which a judge ruled nearly a month ago the city could delete in 10 days — has instead been preserved due to another lawsuit.

Republican Assemblymembers Ron Castorina Jr. and Nicole Malliotakis filed a second lawsuit April 13 against the city in Manhattan Supreme Court over the city's rejection of Freedom of Information Law requests by the state lawmakers to turn over data gathered when people applied for the municipal ID.

"The content of Petitioners FOIL requests proves necessary to perform their duties as members of New York State's Assembly," their lawyer, Jeffrey Alfano, wrote in the suit. 

"The documents used to support the issuance of a government identification card ought to remain intact to carry out legitimate governmental and public interests."

Aside from the Manhattan suit, the lawmakers also filed a notice of appeal against Judge Philip Minardo's April 7 ruling that the city can delete the application data and a request to extend the stay granted by Minardo to preserve them in the meantime, Alfano said.

The extension request and Manhattan lawsuit forces the city to retain the data past the April 17 deadline given by Minardo, according to Alfano.

"The plaintiffs have brought yet another meritless lawsuit to frustrate the City’s effort to protect the personal information of a million New Yorkers," Nicholas Paolucci, spokesman for the Law Department, said in a statement. "We will respond accordingly.”

High profile trial lawyer Ravi Batra, who once sued "Law & Order," said he dropped out of the new lawsuit and appeal.

Mayor Bill de Blasio previously said he would purge the application data to shield undocumented immigrants from prosecution or arrest by the federal government. Castorina and Malliotakis, who is running for mayor against de Blasio, filed a suit last year that claimed doing so would violate FOIL laws.

They also argued that deleting the data would create a security risk because it would make it impossible to trace people who use the card.

Despite their concerns, one of the city's counterterrorism experts testified in court that keeping the data actually poses the security risk.

"Anything that lives on a server can and will be breached," the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller said during a Jan. 5 hearing.

"It could lead to a massive identity fraud operation."

Last month, Minardo ruled the city had a right to destroy the information because FOIL laws don't require places to retain documents and — since they would need to be heavily redacted — could cost up to $6 million to release them.

"Much ado was made about the recent federal election of a Republican President with an immigration agenda and petitioners' support of the President," Minardo wrote. "Notwithstanding these positions, this Court cannot make new law based up a political party's agenda."

Even though Minardo granted the documents be preserved while they work on an appeal, de Blasio previously said he wasn't worried the federal government would rush to grab them in the meantime.

"We believe we're governed by city law and any such action obviously would result in a different legal action," said de Blasio. "We think the result was very positive, very clear, and maximized the chance that this would be resolved very soon in favor of our position and we're ready to defend it come what may."

De Blasio launched the IDNYC program in 2015 to give identification cards to residents who have trouble obtaining regular ID, such as undocumented immigrants, the formerly incarcerated and transgender people.

There have been more than 900,000 applications since it launched. The city has only investigated 102 cases alleging fraud and confirmed just four, which involved people using bogus identities to get the cards, officials previously said in court.

In January, the city changed the policy to no longer keep any personal documents submitted to get IDNYC cards to protect undocumented immigrants.