Florida attorney general nixes disclosure of alarm owner list

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Sunday, August 1, 2004

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Although the advisory legal opinion issued by the Florida attorney general says the names and addresses of security system owners are confidential and not required to be disclosed upon request, the opinion is not law and does not prevent future challenges in court.
The outcome of the legal opinion is seen as a win for the industry, according to Roy Pollack, vice president and president-elect of the Alarm Association of Florida. Pollack sees no reason for such information to be available to the general public, especially since criminals could use the data as a blueprint for future crimes.

“The association has been instrumental in getting this pushed through and clarified,” he said.

In April, Pollack requested via email a record of non-response addresses from an undisclosed police department in Florida. The next day, he received a list that contained 12,000 non-response alarm owners, which had been dropped from the police’s rolls for a number of reasons, including the failure to pay fines and registration fees.

Pollack declined to reveal the location or name of the police department that provided the list. However, he stressed the envelope remains sealed.

Nicholas F. Tsamoutales, a Palm Beach, Fla., city attorney, solicited Attorney General Charlie Crist for the opinion in March, after a local security firm submitted a requested similar to Pollack’s.

The unnamed company specifically sought the identities of security system applicants, information about residential and commercial alarm owners cited for city alarm ordinance violations, and addresses of police dispatches for false and verified alarms.

“I don’t know what their intent was, frankly,” explained Tsa-moutales. “I felt they wanted to use it for marketing purposes.” As a result of the opinion, the request to release the information has not been honored.

Because the opinion is a reading of law and is not law itself, if the undisclosed company decides to pursue the matter, Tsamoutales can use the opinion as the basis of his argument to persuade a judge to rule in his favor.

“We’re very pleased,” Pollack said. “We hope this one is more clear, understandable and adhered to by the municipalities.” For years, the association has fought to secure the identities of alarm owners, he said.

Crist cited a law that was amended in a legislative session that followed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. At that time, the legislature augmented an existing law to shield from public disclosure locations operating security systems not just at public buildings, but private residences and businesses.