Betty Ostergren

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Betty Ostergren is a privacy advocate in Virginia. Ostergren campaigns for the protection of citizens from having their personally identifying information available on the internet. Her website, The Virginia Watchdog "was founded to educate the unknowing public as to how their government is putting - and has put them - at risk and has a First Amendment right of freedom of speech and freedom of the press to do so."[1]

Public/Private Information Lawsuit

Ostergren combined forces with the American Civil Liberties Union to file a federal suit to stop the publication of identifying information of private citizens on the internet.[2] Kent Willis, executive director of the Virginia ACLU chapter, has this to say about the case: "The government can't put the numbers online and then turn around and prevent the public from using those numbers. This is a grossly misplaced bill that attempts to mask the fact that Virginia's lawmakers have failed to prevent Social Security numbers from being placed online in the first place."[3]

Judge Robert E. Payne will be issuing a ruling on the case, but he says that it won't be an easy case to decide. “This case presents some new questions and some hard questions."[4]

On August 23, Judge Payne ruled that Ostergren's right to post public information on the internet is protected by the Constitution. Ostergren "claimed in her lawsuit that government can't publish the information and then punish citizens for distributing it. Payne agreed, saying Ostergren's activities were protected by the First Amendment."[5]

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