What Illicit Police Snooping Tells Us About Government Databases

Government officials like databases. They force us to disclose information on our finances, our cars, our health, our firearms ownership, our encounters with the legal system and a host of other data grand and petty, and they record them for purposes clear and not so much. Having compelled us to cough up the gruesome details of our life, they give us smiles that don't reach their eyes and assure us that our information is secure. And then we find out that Florida cops have been dipping into motor vehicle records to stalk their dates and for purposes of retaliation. Thanks for the assurances, folks.

According to the Orlando Sentinel:

Florida's driver-and-vehicle database, the system that can help law enforcement identify victims of fatal crashes and decipher the identity of a suspect, can be a useful tool for cops.

But the system — known as D.A.V.I.D., for Driving and Vehicle Information Database — can also be easily abused.

Data obtained by the Orlando Sentinel show the number of Florida law-enforcement officers suspected of misusing D.A.V.I.D. skyrocketed last year.

At least 74 law enforcers were suspected of misusing D.A.V.I.D. in 2012, a nearly 400 percent increase from 2011, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Most of the violations seem of the creepy but routine variety that you would expect of government officials who have too much power at their fingertips and little fear of consequences that, theoretically, include criminal charges, sanctions or ill-defined "disciplinary action." Among these was an Oviedo police officer who "made unauthorized searches in D.A.V.I.D. to look up a local bank teller he was reportedly flirting with."

Potentially more troubling are the database incursions into the records of a state trooper who had the nerve to arrest a Miami police officer at gunpoint after she observed him swerving his car in and out of traffic at speeds up to 120 MPH — his usual behavior, it emerged later. Police officers around the state apparently took umbrage at this breach of professional courtesy. According to a December report in the Sun Sentinel:

The Florida Highway Patrol trooper at the center of firestorm after she pulled over a speeding cop at gunpoint said fellow law enforcement officers have created a "life-threatening" situation that caused her to be in such fear for her safety she has become a "hermit."

Trooper Donna "Jane" Watts' 69-page lawsuit, filed in federal court Friday, seeks more than $1 million in damages. She is suing more than 100 police officers and agencies, and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The suit alleges 88 law enforcement officers from 25 jurisdictions illegally accessed her personal information more than 200 times, violating her privacy.

The information retrieved by those 88 snooping cops included Watts's "home address, picture, Social Security number, date of birth, and detailed vehicle description." After the data incursions, she received threatening phone calls, vehicles driving by or idling in front of her home on a cul-de-sac, prank pizza deliveries ...

That's all by cops to a fellow cop.

This isn't an isolated incident by any means. IRS data is a tempting target, given that money is involved. A former employee of the agency was sentenced to 105 months in prison for using tax data to craft $8 million in fraudulent returns. Then again, sometimes IRS agents just peruse the database for personal information about celebrities and neighbors. In that case, the nosy agent's targets included a Who's Who of Hollywood and professional sports.

And we're talking about government. Which means that sometimes agencies just blow it and let massive amounts of infomation get stolen. That's what happened to South Carolina's tax agency last year, reportedly as the consequence of a single phishing email. According to news reports, "[p]eople who filed tax returns electronically from 1998 on were affected, although most of the data appears to be after 2002." Interestingly, the breach revealed that South Carolina follows the IRS's security standards, which don't involve encrypting Social Security numbers.

New and looming policies promise ever-more data collection as the government becomes increasingly involved in our lives and many sectors, including healthcare, grow more regulated and centralized. And there's no reason to think the people with access to those databases will be any different than Florida cops.

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  • dbcooper||

  • sloopyinca||

    We can only pray that Boxxy is still with us.

  • dbcooper||

    :)

    Star Wars kid became a lawyer, so Vayner had no excuse. ;-)

  • Generic Stranger||

    ...why is that not surprising?

  • John Galt||

    Chances are he's still alive (if he ever was) and his supposed death is little more than a publicity stunt.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Vehicle registration is just as gay as firearm registration.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    so is state mandated driver's licensing.

  • John Galt||

    It's obviously a plot to install pink hearts and double rainbows in the skies.

  • ||

    And then we find out that Florida cops have been dipping into motor vehicle records to stalk their dates and for purposes of retaliation.

    Anyone who doesn't think this happens absolutely everywhere in the government needs to get Hitler's brain installed in their head because they don't have one.

    If a Google employee got caught reading some celebrity's Gmail, people would abandon Gmail in droves and that service of Google's would be fucked, so you can be pretty sure they have extreme measures in place to protect privacy. But the DMV (or any other government agency)? Where you gonna go, the other Florida DMV? The other IRS?

    They have little incentive to have good privacy controls. And it's proven again and again.

  • Brandybuck||

    Not only that, if an Google employee did it there would be a national shitstorm over it. There would be so much handwringing the liberals would need extra moisturizing lotion just to keep their palms from catching fire. But if a government employee does it no one cares.

  • sloopyinca||

    Fuck. You. That's. Why.

  • sarcasmic||

    But if a government employee does it no one cares.

    What's the point in caring? There's nothing anyone can do.

  • sarcasmic||

    Why is it that more than half the police shenanigans that we read about comes from Florida?

  • Hugh Akston||

    A better question might be why nobody is talking about building a fence along the south border of Alabama and Georgia.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    good point

  • John Galt||

    As long as it doesn't take away from funding for the electrified fence along the western Arizona, Nevada, and Idaho borders it's a great idea.

  • Generic Stranger||

    Run it down the Cascades and then the Sierra Nevada. Just wait for me to get back on the other fucking side.

  • fish||

    Forget it Sarc it's Florida!

    It seems that every idiot east of the Mississippi aspires to star as beat down victim on Cops - Ft. Lauderdale. Why should we assume the quality of law enforcement personnel is substantially better than that of the surrounding population?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Future generations will care less and less. The youngsters are currently willingly putting every possible piece of personal information out on the world wide web as it is.

  • Hugh Akston||

    That's exactly how police finally caught Warty. Not that it did them any good.

  • John Galt||

    Who gives a shit about the 'youngsters' the vast majority of them have been so dumbed down that they're absolutely militant about surrendering our few remaining liberties and selling off anyone's chance at a prosperous future.

  • sarcasmic||

    I just finished watching that movie about you. It sucked. Well, the blonde was good enough to eat, but otherwise it sucked.

  • John Galt||

    Speaking of blondes and stalking, can you help reveal the identity of this woman? www.youtube.com/watch?v=hztnyh.....03F25EFB54

  • John Galt||

    Obedience equals security. Security equals liberty. Liberty equals obedience.

    My Master's friend is my friend, my Master's enemy is my enemy.

  • zacherieshavell||

    If you think Matthew`s story is unbelievable,, last month my daughter in law worked and got paid $7927 sitting there fourty hours a month from their apartment and their neighbor's step-sister`s neighbour has been doing this for five months and recieved a check for over $7927 parttime from a laptop. applie the guide from this web-site........ http://BIT40.com

  • Paul.||

    And then we find out that Florida cops have been dipping into motor vehicle records to stalk their dates and for purposes of retaliation.

    Census Bureau: Mark the box which tells us if you're Jewish. Don't worry, government would never use that information against you...

  • Paul.||

    Data obtained by the Orlando Sentinel show the number of Florida law-enforcement officers suspected of misusing D.A.V.I.D. skyrocketed last year.

    At least 74 law enforcers were suspected of misusing D.A.V.I.D. in 2012, a nearly 400 percent increase from 2011, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

    So government needs some kind of HIPAA law, for itself.

    'Cause as a regular dude who works in the business we call Tech, in the healthcare industry, we're pretty quick to punch someone's timeclock if they access a patient record they're not authorized to look at.

  • waaminn||

    So, what kinda crazy plan is that dude?

    www.Anon-ids.tk

  • theBuckWheat||

    Earlier this month, in the context of asking a person why he needed a firearm, on his syndicated radio program Geraldo asked a caller: “How could you not trust your own government?”

    I seem to recall in the past Geraldo complaining about how that same government has treated his native Peurto Rico.

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