We write a lot at Reason about the perils of occupational liscensing—how it serves as a barrier to entry for many otherwise qualified hair braiders or horse masseuses or costumed superheroes; how it’s often based on little more than protectionism for those already in an industry; how it further bloats the regulatory state. Add another negative to the list: It can make people’s private information a matter of official record, and thus fair game for public records requests. In some industries, such as those involving adult entertainment, you can see how this may get a little touchy.
Dancers and managers at a Washington state strip club are now suing to stop their county from releasing their names, photos, and other identifying information to a man who has filed a public records request for it. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Tacoma Tuesday, says the Pierce County Auditor’s Office received a request from David A. Van Vleet for copies of all adult entertainment licenses on file for Dreamgirls at Fox’s. Why does this man want identifying info on current and former dancers at the Tacoma-based strip club? Nobody knows. (I reached out to Van Vleet yesterday but haven’t heard back.) But because strippers in most areas of Washington must obtain an “entertainer’s license”, their identities are a matter of public record.
Attorney Gilbert H. Levy acknowledged that the information was technically fair game under the state Public Records Act, but said the privacy and safety interests of strip club workers necessitates keeping their real names and identities confidential. “It’s a unique occupation and it’s a controversial occupation,” Levy told CBS Seattle.