Privacy

MN Cops, Government Workers, in Growing Database Abuse Scandal

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Minnesota driver's license
Minnesota Department of Public Safety

Back in April, former police union attorney Brooke Bass was seeking compensation from Minnesota jurisdictions whose cops had trawled through her driver's license records more than 700 times just for the hell of it. There's talk of a $7 million payout. She was followed by a police officer who accepted $1 million to settle her case over massive data violations. Then there was the news anchor whose North Star State DMV records were accessed 1,380 times by government workers with time on their hands. Now, conservative political activists say their driver's license entries are being used by political opponents. It's all a bit…unsettling as databases become ever-more of a thing, used to store intimate information about Americans' movements, medical records, and overall activities. Minnesota's embarrassing data privacy scandal may be a glimpse of the future that awaits us all.

From Tom Steward at Watchdog.org:

Yet one newly minted case filed by 18 Wabasha County conservative activists — a state representative and two sitting county commissioners among them — ups the ante by raising accusations of prying into driver license data for political purposes.

"You line up dates and start to look at what was I doing around those different times and why are these particular pings concentrated here and it's pretty clear," said Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, whose records were accessed 94 times.  "There's definitely activity that coincides with political activity.  I had a good number of pings that happened on and before and right after announcing for office in two different general elections and one special election."

The earlier cases seem to involve mostly creepy cyberstalking of attractive women by horny officials with access to personal information. If the latest allegations hold up, they would add an IRS-y politicized face to what was already a disturbing insight into what government employees do with our information when they're bored. It's a step from sleazy to politically threatening, though you get to decide for yourself which is the more objectionable.

Database abuse isn't new. Ohio allowed 30,000 police officers and other state officials access to its facial recognition database, and is only now backtracking to impose some safeguards. IRS agents frequently misuse the financial records to which they have access for fun and profit.

Political abuses aren't unknown, either. The Virginia State Police used license plate recognition technology to track who comes and goes at political rallies. The agency insists it has learned the errors of its ways.

Just wait until the Obamacare Data Services Hub is up and running.

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  1. If you don’t want its agents popping boners over your photo, maybe you shouldn’t drive on the state’s roads.

  2. I don’t know if I should be outraged by this or not. Is MNs governor on Team Red or Team Blue?

  3. They have really no fear of consequence do they? I was working at American Express Travel Services back in 2001, the day Vance DeGeneres got fired from the Daily Show and took his call that night, had all of his information in front of me, interesting details about the show itself, but the minute we were finished doing business I had to back out of that, and keep it to myself. We were under heavy monitoring to assure quality service and customer privacy, and I certainly wasn’t going to take the risk. To the public sector, you are just a toy to be fucked with.

    1. In the hospital world, any kind of intentional access of a patient file that you have no business accessing is pretty much automatic termination.

      1. Married to an RN, the things she has to keep to herself could change local elections.

        1. No kidding! My RN friend and her coworkers tell me that they always access confidential info on past, present and/or potential love interests.

          1. As RC Dean said, if (when) they get caught that’s automatic termination. As an RN, I can attest that it is very strongly emphasized that we are not allowed to access any records that we do not need to access for direct patient care. We had a celebrity at my hospital a while back, and six employees (not all nurses) were fired for accessing the celebrity’s records.

            We’re not even allowed to access our own medical records as a user. We have to request them through the medical records office like any other patient.

      2. Basically yes. My wife can sign a waiver to allow me access to her records but without that I cannot even confirm an appointment for her without risking termination.

        Every access is tracked too. Everytime I look at a record it’s time stamped.

  4. Just wait until the telecoms start turning over those fingerprints used to access the new iPhones!

  5. This is essentially what Obama did in order to defeat Jack Ryan for the IL Senate seat.

    1. truly the sum of all fears.

  6. Just wait until the Obamacare Data Services Hub is up and running.

    2 years from now when Obamacare data is used against political opponents Tony will say no one predicted this would happen.

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