Notaries often are exposed to sensitive information about their signers when performing notarizations. These include addresses, phone numbers, birthdates identification serial numbers and more. As a Notary you must take appropriate steps to handle this information properly to ensure the privacy of your customers and to prevent any possible breaches of this information. Here’s a look at important practices and laws you must follow to avoid potential privacy breaches.
New State Notary Privacy Laws
State lawmakers have been focused on privacy issues in recent months. Arizona and Iowa, for example, have enacted special privacy laws that their Notaries need to be aware of.
Arizona authorizes its Notaries to keep a separate journal for any acts that are not public records, such as notarizations containing information covered by attorney-client privilege or information classified as confidential under federal or state law. Arizona Notary journals for nonpublic records must be kept confidential and are considered the property of the Notary’s employer. Effective July 1, 2020, Arizona Notaries must keep a separate journal for nonpublic notarizations.
Also effective July 1, 2020, Iowa Notaries will be prohibited from selling, offering for sale, using or transferring for use to another individual personally identifiable information collected when performing a notarization, except as required for the notarization or the transaction for which the information was provided. Certain exemptions to this broad privacy provision are noted in the new law.
Follow State Privacy Rules When Recording Your Journal Entries
Always be sure to follow any Notary laws regarding what information must be entered in your journal entry. Some jurisdictions prohibit Notaries from recording certain kinds of signer information in a journal entry. For example, Texas prohibits its Notaries from recording any type of number that can identify a signer (such as a Social Security number or driver’s license number) or biometric identifiers such as fingerprints in the Notary’s journal. Montanaforbids its Notaries from recording specific information unique to the identity of a signer such as driver’s license numbers, Social Security numbers or birthdates. Under a new Notary law in Ohio taking effect September 20, 2019, Ohio Notaries who perform remote online notarizations cannot record Social Security numbers in their journals when entering information about a remote notarization.
Notary Signing Agents And Federal Privacy Laws
Title companies are obligated to protect any sensitive consumer information related to loan document signings under relevant federal laws, including the federal Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA). Because of this, Signing Agents should not allow a title company to inspect their Notary journal as a condition to receiving assignments, unless the request complies with and is specifically permitted under your jurisdiction’s Notary laws.
Securing Your Notary Journal
It’s very important to protect sensitive customer information in your journal from prying eyes. You should never leave your journal unattended or left out in the open where unauthorized persons can read it. Some states, such as California and Massachusetts, require storing Notary journalsin a secure location when not in use.
Also, you should never let unauthorized persons look randomly through your journal for information. California requires Notaries to only provide information in a journal entry to individuals who submit a written request that includes information about the notarizations in question. If asked to provide information from a journal entry, Notaries should conceal unrelated entries on the same page to avoid exposing sensitive information that is not related to the requested journal entry or entries.
Other General Notary Privacy Guidelines
Even if your jurisdiction does not have specific statutes how Notaries should handle private information (such as Florida), you should still take steps to avoid exposing any personal or proprietary information provided by a signer during a notarization. The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility recommends the following practices to protect document signers:
Don’t discuss details about notarizations you perform with people who aren’t involved in the transaction.
For example, a Notary should never discuss his or her work to friends or family: “I just did a notarization today for Margie down the street. She’s buying a new house, and you wouldn’t believe the price she paid I saw on her loan documents!”
Don’t read every single detail of a signer’s documents while notarizing.
The Notary should only review the document to confirm that it is complete, does not include any blank spaces or missing pages, or to note any information required by state law for the journal entry (such as the type of document or document date in some states).
Don’t make or keep copies of signer documents and information.
Some Notaries have asked if they should make and keep photocopies of documents they notarize as evidence they performed the notarization properly. The answer is a categorical “no.” Making or demanding photocopies of a signer’s documents is unnecessary in most cases and could be seen as an intrusion into the signer’s private business or personal affairs. In most cases, the only signer information that you should keep is the specific information that is required by your Notary statute in creating a detailed journal entry for the notarization.
David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.
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