How Notaries Protect Your Privacy

31.08.22 04:50 PM By Jeannie

How Notaries Protect Your Privacy

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, we must take appropriate steps to handle this information properly to ensure the privacy of our customers and to prevent any possible breaches of this information. The article below was recently posted in The National Notary Bulletin regarding this very important topic.

Special State Notary Privacy Laws

Arizona and Iowa 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. Arizona Notaries must keep a separate journal for nonpublic notarizations.

Iowa Notaries are 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 state law.

Wisconsin law, WS 140.02(5m)(b), requires Notaries to keep confidential all documents and information provided to the Notary or contained in any documents reviewed by the Notary in the course of the Notary's duties. The Notary may only release this information to a third person with the written consent of the person who requested the Notary's services, or if the Notary is complying with a request from a regulatory agency, subpoena or court order.

Colorado CRS 24-21-514.5(11)(c)(I) through (IV) prohibits remote Notaries and remote notarization providers from using, selling or offering to sell information about signers, witnesses or persons named in documents presented for remote notarization except when needed to perform a notarization or for specific regulatory or court-related purposes listed in the statute.

Follow State Privacy Rules When Recording Journal Entries

A Notary must always be sure to follow any Notary laws regarding what information must be entered in their 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. Montana forbids its Notaries from recording specific information unique to the identity of a signer such as driver’s license numbers, Social Security numbers or birthdates. 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 that jurisdiction’s Notary laws.

Securing The Notary Journal

It’s very important to protect sensitive customer information in a Notary journal from prying eyes.  A Notary should never leave their journal unattended or left out in the open where unauthorized persons can read it. Some states, such as California and Massachusetts, require storing Notary journals in a secure location when not in use.

Also, Notaries should never let unauthorized persons look randomly through their 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 the jurisdiction does not have specific statutes how Notaries should handle private information (such as Florida), they 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 performed 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!”

Notaries should also never share a signer's sensitive personal or financial information on social media or through video channels such as YouTube. 

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.