Surveillance

If They Can Spy on Crystal Bowersox, How Can The Rest of Us Feel Safe?

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American Idol runner-up Crystal Bowersox gained national acclaim belting out her style of folksy blues on the popular TV show.

But some of the attention the Toledo-area singer received back home in Ohio was unflattering, as police and others improperly checked to see if she had a criminal record or blemishes on her driving record.

From computers with access to personal information in confidential state databases, employees of five police agencies and a municipal court rummaged through Bowersox's background.

And in Columbus, an Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles clerk examined vehicles registered in the performer's name, and the home computer of an assistant city prosecutor was used to check on the newly minted star….

The Bowersox checks are reminiscent of a case two years ago, when The Dispatch reported that state computers were improperly tapped for personal information on Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, also known as "Joe the Plumber." Conducting a background check for an unauthorized purpose is illegal.

This sure makes you feel comfortable about the gummint having more and more of your life in their databases, doesn't it? The punishments against the malefactors ranged from two weeks' suspensions to written reprimands. That'll teach 'em!

Whole story here.

Hat Tip: recidivist commenter Citizen Nothing.

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  1. And here I thought Crystal Bowersox was some kind of internet jab at Keifer Sutherland.

    1. It is. Don’t let them fool you.

  2. I really don’t see how anything in any of those records could do more to damage her reputation than having been on American Idol.

    Having said that, at least they didn’t have the opportunity to check her medical history. Yet.

    1. The things that are really annoying about this, though, is that 1) they were solely doing it because they could sell it to the tabloids, and were abusing their background check privileges to do so, and 2) none of them will likely get in much, if any, trouble for it.

      Not that it surprises me, but it’s just one more brick the wall of how huge of pieces of scum government employees are.

      1. Thanks for providing an explanation. I couldn’t figure out why they’d be trying to fix the competition by undercutting their favorite daughter, and I thought if they just wanted to arrest people they’d be better off searching at random, where they’d be less likely to get caught than fingering a celebrity.

    2. I work at a hospital. We’re all given the HIPAA training, which includes stuff like, “Do not look up information you don’t have a specific need for.” Whenever we get a celebrity in the hospital, a few people get fired for looking at the person’s records…so clearly it doesn’t stop everybody, but people really do get fired over it. I dare say we take security more seriously than the government does.

      1. Yeah, well your employer can’t claim sovereign immunity and tell the victim to fuck off the way the government can.

        1. Yeah, well your employer can’t claim sovereign immunity and tell the victim to fuck off the way the government can.

          Not till we get single-payer from the gov’t. Then the nurse can have all the snooping fun they want.

    3. The bitch slapping Rush Limbaugh put on the Palm Beach prosecutors should put that off for a little while, at least.

  3. This sure makes you feel comfortable about the gummint having more and more of your life in their databases, doesn’t it?

    My concern is less the existence of the information than the fact that, with so many laws on the books, a sufficiently deep search will almost certainly find some law that I have inadvertently broken.

    “Ahah! He missed the garbage can with his gum wrapper on a trip to NYC. That’s felony littering!

    Ready the SWAT team.”

  4. BBBAAAAALLLKKKOO-!

    Oh wait, this is Gillespie?

    I’ve made it to 4:00 on a Friday without a Balko blood-boiling story about LEO overreach?

    Did I miss something?

    1. See? New professionalism. I was just ahead of my time.

  5. I’m sure it’s just a bias from me living there, but Ohio seems to have a fairly significant amount of corrupt officials. From the brazen assclowns of the former village of New Rome to people spying on celebrities. I’m starting to think there’s something in the water, even something that isn’t combustible.

    1. Reason #173 why Pennsylvania’s better than Ohio.

      1. That’s like saying Miller lite is better than Coors.

        Not exactly a high bar you’ve set for yourself.

        1. Love that comment!

      2. Reason #12 Ohio is better than Penna…
        The Buckeyes are 6-2 against the Nittany Lions the past 8 years.

        Suck on that.

        O-H-…

        1. I’m a little nervous about the Nittany Lions tomorrow night.

          1. Oughta be. Bama is loaded and PSU is young at some key spots.

            Don’t worry, I’m just as nervous about the U coming to the shoe. God, I miss living in the eastern time zone. Being in Cali means I’ll probably be sober when the game starts.

        2. Ohio, there is one sport, one forecast, and always just one lane.

          1. This makes me wonder…why is there not an open thread on here so we can talk about sports and music and other shit on here occasionally without pissing off people who have to wade through the comments about kamikaze-looking hipsters or make-out sessions with single-breasted women?

            1. Well, … OK. But it has to be threaded comments. And no pictures.

              1. exactly. God forbid we’d have fun.

        3. I’ll take the Eagles and Steelers over Bengals and Browns any day…

          1. Well, I grew up in Cincy but have always been a Steelers fan. The choice between Ken Anderson and Terry Bradshaw was a no-brainer. And, the old scool Ben-gals uniforms were a statewide embarrasment. And Cleveland isn’t even in Ohio. It’s actually South Michigan.

            That said, college football is a hell of a lot more important to any self-respecting sports fan than the NFL, IMHO.

            1. Different regions of the country have different comparative values on college vs. pro. But unlike college FB, at least the NFL has a plausible method for determining a champion. (unless you’re referring to Division I-A or whatever the fuck they’re calling it these days)

              1. You mean Div. 1-AA and below. 1-A is the one they determine a champion by polls.

    2. You’re better off in St. Louis.

    3. Bah… I’m here in Cuyahoga county… where new corruption indictments are coming down daily.

      Then there’s always that cuntpickle Cimperman…

      1. cuntpickle

        *Slow Clap*

  6. The punishments against the malefactors ranged from two weeks’ suspensions to written reprimands. That’ll teach ’em!

    Since we haven’t reinstituted the pillory, how about publishing all records, public/private/sealed, of the malefactors?

  7. The best excuse came from the person who was working on criminal cases at home when her friend typed in Bowersox’s name.

    Government employees working at home? Surely they don’t think we’re that stupid.

    1. Yeah, I LOL’d at that one. Sure, a “friend” typed it in while you were watching America Idol. I totally buy it!

    2. Yeah, I LOL’d at that one. Sure, a “friend” typed it in while you were watching America Idol. I totally buy it!

    3. Shouldn’t this person be fired immediately for giving someone without the proper clearances (or whatever) access to that information?

  8. […]The Dispatch reported that state computers were improperly tapped for personal information on Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, also known as “Joe the Plumber.” Conducting a background check for an unauthorized purpose is illegal.

    STATE: It’s not illegal when we do it.

  9. The punishments against the malefactors ranged from two weeks’ suspensions to written reprimands. That’ll teach ’em!

    Well, it does say that some DMV clerks were fired, so that is good I guess (and probably the first recorded instance of a DMV moron being held responsible for anything ever), but all of the law enforcement officials involved should be facing serious criminal charges.

    If I broke into the system and started downloading information on law enforcement officials I would probably be put away for many many years. So I don’t see how this is any different. But of course, the police always look after their own…

  10. This was talked about right here on this site, and I don’t remember the excellent commenter who brought it up.. maybe it was Hazel Meade… either way, when the Joe The Plumber phenomenon erupted, and his medical records, tax records, and other personal information became a political football, almost no one was stepping back from the fracas–either left or right– and denouncing the fact that this guy, no matter how you felt about him, had a tremendous amount of his personal information flying around the blogosphere, mediasphere, and 24-hour-newsphere.

    The fact of the matter is, government is big, government is powerful and you become a person of note, your personal data (that the government promises it will never misuse, but really, really needs to have) is up for grabs.

    We may now return to Facebook users whining about privacy.

  11. Soooooo… no more computers at gov’t offices? Perhaps typewriters and pneumatic tubes will do?

    1. Give them computers, just don’t connect them to anything…

      1. Sneakernet, baby.

  12. Well, after the Canadian Idol guy, they were probably looking for national security reasons.

  13. as a LEO myself, it amazes me how people think WE have all this info on people. the private sector has FAR more. trust me. when we really want to find out stuff on people we use private subscription services (like intelius etc.) not govt. stuff. criminal convictions and most court stuff is public record ANYWAY. anybody can access it. in my state, you can buy an account to access it online, or simply walk into any district court and use their public access computer. you can look up all civil cases, infractions (tickets) and criminal cases, and that includes cases that were dismissed or found not guilty, etc.

    you can access public databases to find out marriages, divorces, quit claim deeds, all sorts of stuff.

    people watch movies like bourne stuff or the south park episode that made fun of the database access and don’t realize it’s FICTION.

    DMV stuff is about the only stuff the public doesn’t have easy access to, but again – you can still (at least in my state) look up every traffic ticket, etc. that somebody has gotten, whether or not they were upheld. anybody can.

    1. In the words of Joliet Jake Blues, “They probably got S.C.M.O.D.S.”

      Ah Dunphy. Where were you on the thread about cops wanting medical records at their leisure?

      If you want us to believe cops don’t have a great deal of our personal records at their fingertips, you’re gonna have to explain why I’ve had my record of speeding recited to me on the roadside by a cop. Or explain to me how they draw their weapons based on record of a vehicle’s owner when they pull a car over and call in the license plate number.

      Yeah, that info is in your databases, otherwise they wouldn’t treat people differently when they pull them over. And to think that there wouldn’t be a few nosy fuckers in that power-hungry group of jackals takes a greater leap of faith than Scientology.

    2. “”as a LEO myself, it amazes me how people think WE have all this info on people.””

      If you have access to it, you do have it. People don’t necessarily think about cops having servers that store the info, they just think a cop can sit down at a computer and see it.

      You’re right, that the private sector has more. But I don’t think people have to worry about the data being used against them by private sector in the same way LEOs might.

      Public record has sort of been replaced with public information. Public information includes that which you post on the internet. And LEOs do use that information to some degree. Think Michael Phelps. If you have a liason with DHS your department may have access to government geospatial intelligence systems. But that’s not something a beat cop can access, and it’s much more like that which you call fiction.

      How LEOs use information will make leaps and bounds in years to come. It shouldn’t be long before cellphone data is always used to find out who might be a witness to a crime. Having a list of names and numbers. Sure beats old school canvassing.

      1. How LEOs use information will make leaps and bounds in years to come. It shouldn’t be long before cellphone data is always used to find out who might be a witness to a crime. Having a list of names and numbers. Sure beats old school canvassing.

        Orwell much?

        1. fuck threaded comments in the ass with a chainsaw.

          1. Why? You did it right. Unlike below, where you did it wrong, but keep on keeping on, eh?

            /giving piss

        2. “””Orwell much?””

          Dude, that’s so 1980s.

          It’s not impossible to get the numbers from particular towers to see who’s phone is pinging the tower at any given time. The GPS data sent on newer phones can get a good approximation of location. Almost everyone carrys a cell phone these days.

          What I’m talking about is doable with current technology.

          But hey if like Orwellish tech,

          http://rawstory.com/news/2007/….._0530.html

    3. I don’t think the public has access to this one.

      http://www.newsobserver.com/20…..ought.html

  14. Really? You’re defending a violation of trust, internal rules and the law with that? When if a non-gov employee did it on that system they’d be facing jail time? That’s some pretty fucking weak sauce. And if the private databases were used, you think they payed for those subscriptions out of their own pocket? That shit isn’t theirs, it belongs to the taxpayer.

    1. That was to officer dumphuk. I screwed up the threading.

  15. your reading com[prehension leaves a lot to be desired, too.

    i’m not defending these assholes. they should be punished. i’m saying it’s ironic, because there are plenty of easily accessible databases APART from LEO-only databases, that supply metric assloads of info

    iow, they are not only corrupt, they are lazy.

    when gathering intel, i have found that private databases and publically accessible ones have TONS of info.

    1. “”when gathering intel, i have found that private databases and publically accessible ones have TONS of info””

      So is the ability for you to access tons of information fiction or not?

      1. my point, which isn’t that difficult is that these morons are getting in trouble for doing stuff that is not only corrupt, but stupid. if they are curious, they can legally and ethically access AT LEAST as much interesting info using either public databases or private ones, neither of which are going to get them into trouble

        i use these all the time. you don’t need any sort of PC or official investigation to use them. they are either public record, or privately owned.

        1. “”people watch movies like bourne stuff or the south park episode that made fun of the database access and don’t realize it’s FICTION.””

          I was referring to this comment. If South Park makes fun of using a database to look at tons of data on people. I’m not certain why you would think that’s fiction if you use them to access tons of data. Sure it’s blow out of proportion, that’s part of the making fun of it.

  16. “”As well as the “business intelligence” side to the firm, there’s a real feeling of Minority Report, here. It sounds like the kind of tool that will be used to predict crimes and terrorist activity as well. Analytics are already being used by the Memphis Police Department, whose Operation Blue CRUSH uses predictive analytics by IBM. “”

    http://www.fastcompany.com/167…..artner=rss

    It takes more than public records to predict behavior.

  17. If someone at Bank Whatever had done this it would be front page of WSJ and careers would end.

  18. your reading com[prehension leaves a lot to be desired, too.

    Nope, it reads like an excuse. But since that has to be done so often for law enforcement lately, I guess setting your tone that way is kinda understandable. I do agree with this though:
    iow, they are not only corrupt, they are lazy.

    But I’d bet we disagree about just how large a percentage of LEOs that encompasses.

    1. It’s not a reading comprehension problem; it’s a seeing what you want to see problem. In this case, you want to lump dunphy in with the eeeeeeeeeeevil government employees, so whatever he writes will be interpreted that way.

      I only know this because it happens to me pretty much full time on this blog.

      1. In this case, you want to lump dunphy in with the eeeeeeeeeeevil government employees,

        I think he did that to himself when he defended the BART cop and redefined electrocution to explain away taser deaths. That comment seriously didn’t sound to you like “Move along nothing, to see here. It’s not a big deal since there’s more info available to private companies.”?

        I only know this because it happens to me pretty much full time on this blog.

        Do you mean that you get lumped in, or that you do it to others?

    2. it only reads like an excuse to YOU because you inject your prejudice, your preconceived ideas instead of simply reading what i wrote. did i defend their actions? no. you ASSUMED i was doing that, because you are bigoted.

      i think they should be punished.

      that’s TANGENTIAL to the fact that they are also lazy morons, since there are plenty of perfectly legal easy ways to research this stuff. hth

    3. All his posts relative to police read like an excuse. He’s a Reason’s very own example of the blue line/ blue wall. Before it was a lack of training.

      ITT: Tulpa becomes a victim, maybe dunphy can take his statement and get a rape kit on him.

      1. Anything less than calling for the firing and jailing of every cop and/or government employee nationwide reads like an excuse around here.

        I know the drill.

        1. Holding them all responsible for their collective inaction != firing and jailing all of them.

  19. i didn’t defend the bart cop. i said the verdict was just.

    as a matter of fact, as i often do, i agreed with balko on this

    that’s the verdict that the FACTS supported

    so supporting a manslaughter verdict was defending the BART cop?

    first: get the facts right

    hth

    1. Your opinion on the reason for the shooting was that the cop had not received adequate training. Is that the “FACTS” you’re so on about? The jury decided that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict for second degree murder. Not the same as agreeing to a “opps, wrong weapon” defense. See, giving a reason why something isn’t a person’s fault (lack of training) is what’s commonly known as an excuse. Damn, there go those pesky words with their damn definitions getting in the way again (electrocution’s another problematic one, isn’t it?). Jesus titty-fucking Christ man! You’re not anywhere near as smart as you seem to think, you’ve just had your ass licked throughout your career because you’re legally allowed to harass those who disagree with you.

  20. The strange thing about this story is that almost none of the information that the employees loooked up is private information. Criminal records and DMV records are public. California only started to limit public access to DMV records after a stalker used them to kill 80’s TV star Rebecca Schaeffer.

    Still, anyone can buy a Lexis/nexis account and get the same information these guys got, plus more.

  21. Look Dunphy, until you come on here with the link to the news story about how you eliminated corruption in your jurisdiction….tone it down man.

  22. “…the home computer of an assistant city prosecutor was used…”

    …she is a valued public servant who has never before done anything wrong and is worth every dollar of her six-figure salary…

  23. Lazy is not waiting for a red light to change.

  24. Does anyone know how this information got public? What I mean is – how did she or whoever find out they were peering into her personal stuff? Was it a random audit that uncovered it or something like stuff got leaked to the tabloids and her folks had it investigated?

    More importantly, how does someone who isn’t a celebrity perform find out if people have been peering through their stuff? I’m sure it varies state to state just curious if this is something the average joe could access

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