Think Government Surveillance Is No Big Deal? Talk to These Victims of Police Stalking.

Officials likely abuse access to government info databases on a daily basis.


Roza /

Every so often we hear or read news reports about a municipal government official—a police officer, a DMV clerk, et cetera—using access to databases of citizen information for unauthorized and often very illegal purposes. We've seen them use personal information to stalk ex-lovers, track down potential romantic interests, and even to facilitate identity theft.

In this age where both the federal government and municipal law enforcement agencies are deliberately attempting to collect more and more data about us, the Associated Press attempted to investigate how frequently government officials misuse their access to citizen information. The results of their investigation were published today.

What they've found is unsurprisingly concerning—and very, very incomplete. The AP requested reports of incidences of database misuse from all 50 states and three dozen large municipal police departments. Over just two years they determined there were at least 650 cases where an employee or police officer was fired, suspended or otherwise disciplined for inappropriately accessing and using information from government databases.

The Associated Press acknowledges that these numbers are woefully undercounted due to lack of reliable recordkeeping and are likely much, much higher. And how many cases of unauthorized access don't even get caught? When we spread these numbers out over time, what this essentially means is that every single day a government official somewhere is inappropriately looking up information about citizens in state or municipal databases.

The story describes many cases where police use databases to stalk people, often connected to romantic entanglements. Some cases revolve around simple curiosity—like looking up information about celebrities. These are bad enough examples on their own. There are some other examples provided, though, that highlight situations where officials and officers were—in what appears to be an organized fashion—using access to database information to snoop on and even intimidate its critics.

In one case in Minnesota, a county commissioner discovered that law enforcement and government officials had repeatedly searched databases for information about her and her family members. These searches came after she criticized county spending and programs of the sheriff's department. In Miami-Dade County in Florida, a highway trooper found herself stalked and threatened by police after she pulled an officer over for speeding in 2011, assisted with information about her from the state's driver databases. (Reason previously took note of this case, and a local newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing police officers' habit of dangerous speeding, even when off duty, on local highways.)

Also of note: The efforts by the county commissioner to fight back were unsuccessful because she couldn't prove the searches about her and her family were not permitted. A good chunk of the story is about the complexity of trying to regulate the circumstances by which government officials access these databases and how to engage in oversight to make sure the information isn't being misused.

Sadly, that means there isn't nearly a big enough discussion of what information city government should be gathering and storing in the first place. Police, just like the federal government, have been increasingly collecting and storing data about citizens even when they're not even suspected of any criminal behavior whatsoever. There has not been nearly enough of a connection between the capacity of government officials to threaten and intimidate citizens and how this push for more and more data helps make it happen.

Heaven knows Reason has been raising the alarm. Back when Edward Snowden first leaked details about the National Security Agency (NSA) collecting massive amounts of metadata from all Americans' communications, I explained several reasons why people with "nothing to hide" still needed to be concerned about government collection of their personal info. One of the reasons was exactly what we see here: Occasionally there are people in government who themselves have bad intent and seek to harm others. All this information helps facilitate government-employed predators targeting citizens.

Read more from the AP study here.

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  1. Just a few bad apples, not representative of police, why do you hate cops, next time you need an officer call a crackhead… did I cover it?

    1. You forgot Somalia.

    2. I think it’s less likely that the crackhead will shoot you upon showing up.

    3. I would be very happy if the cops would just stay out of my way when I take the law into my own hands. I appear to take far better care of myself than a LEO can.

    4. Anybody can earn 450$+ daily.. You can earn from 9000-14000 a month or even more if you work as a full time job.. It’s easy, just follow instructions on this page, read it carefully from start to finish.. It’s a flexible job but a good eaning opportunity. Go to this site home tab for more detail…

    5. Juvenile, I agree! I think I should let police look at my private information, just in case I might need to call them; I think I should let police shoot unarmed people, just in case I might need to call them; I should let them push me around, just in case I might need to call them; I should let them get away with all kinds of shit, just in case I might need to call them. Boy, you really make a good deep-thinking point.

  2. If you aren’t cheating or don’t leave your cop husband, then he won’t have to look up records on the guy to harass him.
    If you don’t make yourself interesting enough to pike the curiosity of a police officer, you have nothing to fear.
    If you don’t criticize the cops, you have nothing to fear.

    Stop with this irrational fear mongering of our government, Reason.

    1. Government is the word for the people we choose to stalk together.

  3. If I were dictator for a day on this particular subject, I would simply make public every access to those records; not the records themselves, other than enough name / address for people to find themselves. I suppose you’d have to make exemptions for sealed warrants until they became unsealed, or some such nonsense. (Sealed warrants strike me very much as an excuse and coverup for fishing expeditions.)

    Just like police-monitored cameras — lots of stories about how they abuse those by zooming in on women. Easy to fix — have the monitors they watch publicly available, so if they zoom in or otherwise waste time, it’s public.

    1. It’s funny, I can see who views my LinkedIn profile, why couldn’t I know when some cop is looking up my record? I wouldn’t know why and can’t really obstruct an investigation, but in a way it would help me exert my, I dunno 4th, 5th, 6th amendment rights for starters. Likewise I know every time my credit report is accessed.

    2. If I were dictator for a day, I would shrink government budgets and personnel by over 50%.

      Not much of a dictator, I know.

    3. We already have that technology. Healthcare providers are required to do it. I’ve built audit logs for searches that display in a table, because that’s still accessing personal health information. Its not trivial, but its a solved problem.

      1. ^^^this. The hospitals I have worked at had to run data on every personnel who ran patient files. I would see blatant violations of HIPPA every day but only ever saw one person caught. You would have to be doing an awful lot of snooping to raise suspicion and suprisingnly the worst offenders were the unit managers or head nurses (can explain their excessive looks by managing potential cases coming to unit). I always find these people really have no life, but if they had a gun and badge they would be an enemy I would never ever want to battle.

    4. The post reunification German Government made peoples’ STASI files available to those who wanted to see them. Quite a few people wouldn’t look because they didn’t want to know which friends or family members were ratting on them.

    5. How about nobody monitors the cameras, the images just get automatically recorded, and saved for maybe a month, before getting recorded over. If a crime is reported during that month as having been committed in an area monitored by the cameras, then the tapes are looked at to see what they show, and saved to be used in court if they show something relevant. Otherwise, nobody looks at them.

  4. Watch ’em all, let God sort ’em out!

  5. Meanwhile they grilling the fuck out of Comey. Hey Reason are you carrying water, or just blatantly too thick headed to recognize a significant event in the presidential race?

    1. All “WAH REASON ISN’T COVERING MY PET ISSUE” enough posts should be punished by making the poster spend the day at either DU or Breitbart, whichever is worse for that particular person.

      1. Yea. I mean, the president caught in lies, the grants of immunity given out like candy, or even the fact that the government/FBI withheld transcripts that showed the Orlando shooter’s specific motivations are just pet issues of cooks. It’s crazy to think a libertarian leaning news site would view these things as good examples of how government lies and has double standards or anything.

        Dumb fuck comment of the day award goes to…

        1. Reason is always advertising that they’re hiring. Why don’t you two tards apply for jobs so you can make sure they focus on the right things in a manner that you find timely?

          1. 1. I doubt it pays enough.

            2. I can’t write that much about Trump.

            1. Should add to this – my concern isn’t how much they do or don’t write about Trump at this stage. It’s whatever. The email scandal is not fake or partisan as Nick wrongly claims. That a libertarian news editor can’t see the relevancy of that story is absurd to me.

              It’s not about one particular event not being covered, either. It’s about Reason taking a large position of silence with regards to it. There have been some pretty prime emails Reason could even choose to highlight completely separate from the legality of her server that would show just how screwed up America’s foreign policy is. Emails that show just how the donuts of American inventionism get made. But we get…silence.

                1. I really just can’t keep up with cosmos and your incredible wit. We’d be lost without such valuable contributions to the dialogue around here.

                  1. I really just can’t keep up with cosmos and your incredible wit.

                    The republican finally said something that’s accurate.

                    1. Well, it’s good to know how you define wit, Francisco. I had a suspicion, but it’s good to see it confirmed. Calling people racist, sexist, and/or Republicans? Comedy gold. Twisting around arguments and avoidance of tackling anything the other person said? Witty stuff.

                      Why is responding to what someone else actually said so difficult for your brigade?

                    2. Brigade? I thought we were barely a platoon.

                      But yes, as a public accommodation, Reason should be writing the stories to want to see, not what they want to write. And where’s my gay Nazi cake, Welch?

                    3. Twisting around arguments and avoidance of tackling anything the other person said?

                      Perhaps I should explain it in terms young Broch can understand.

                      You see, son, you were clearly implying that Reason has conspired to not cover a story that you find newsworthy, BECUZ they are clearly in the tank for Hillary. Such a notion is so absurd that anyone claiming such might get called a conspiracy theorist.

                      Conspiracy theorists, of your caliber, often wear tin foil hats to stop those conspiring from reading their thoughts. Or, at least, this is a common meme.

                      So the connection between your batshit crazy notion and the tinfoil hat was germane.

                      Now do you understand it?

                      As to the “republican” remark, it was in response to being referred to as a Cosmo. A derogatory term that republicans, yokels if you must, use to describe libertarians.

                      I can break it down to even more simplistic terms if you require. Just let me know.

                    4. You see, son, you were clearly implying that Reason has conspired to not cover a story that you find newsworthy, BECUZ they are clearly in the tank for Hillary.

                      No, I did not. I paraphrased what Nick has said about the emails – that they aren’t important and the only ones who really care are partisans. Nick is the editor of the HnR blog which has stopped covering those emails.

                      Everything else you said is bullshit. I never said implied conspiracy or being in the tank for Hillary. And if you think I said that, provide the specific quotes. They aren’t there.

                    5. I, for one anyway, think the stuff mentioned by Brochettaward at 12:52 is of more than passing interest to a publication purporting to cover politics and criticize government excess. Certainly more important than the near-daily chronicles of the whines and pearl clutchings of campus SJWs.

                      But that’s just me.

              1. The most important issue is that Trumphitler can’t get elected. Can you imagine what will happen if Reason is headquartered in Canada?


          ~Especially~ if it’s my pet issue.

        3. Look, those things are important, but right now they’re working on more important things! Today’s Trump articles are not going to write themselves!

          1. They must be working super hard on them, because the number of Trump articles so far today is zero.

        4. the Orlando shooter’s specific motivations are just pet issues of cooks

          If you don’t like cooking dog, you shouldn’t have become a chef!

      2. The legality of cockfighting is a pet issue (no pun intended). The FBI/DOJ aiding and abetting corruption with the potential to influence the outcome of a presidential election is sort of A Big Deal.

        1. It’s apparently silly for libertarians to concern themselves with the rule of law.

    2. But anyway, I suspect this is an editorial position that comes down from Nick. He is on record declaring that no one cares about the whole email thing besides partisan hacks/closet Republicans. It’s a big to-do about nothing. So they reserve any comment on it to the AM/PM links machine.

    3. I agree!!



      1. No one claimed ‘bias.’

        Reason had adopted a wall of silence over Hillary’s emails – everything related to them – since the day she wasn’t indicted. There have been a number of stories since then that Reason has ignored. They could have approached it from any number of angles.

        The runner up to the dumb fuck comment of the day is…

        1. Why the hell did your comment fail to denounce the war in Yemen?? Brochettaward’s wall of silence on this issue PROVES he’s trying to cover it up because he’s a shill for Obama!!

          Also a simple search of Reason has an article about Hillary’s emails set to come out on October 1st. But I’m sure that’s more evidence of the great Reason coverup somehow.

          1. Which part of Reason is Nick in charge of, again? Can you educate me? I think it was HnR/the internet blog. Can you provide me all these stories Reason has written over the last two months on that issue, despite a pretty constant flow of material?

            1. Does every author have to talk about the same issue ad nausium, or is it just every single part of Reason that has to talk about the same issue??

              As long as someone covers it somewhere on the site, what does it matter?? October 1st has an article scheduled covering Clinton emails. Mend your butthurt.

              And again, the continued wall of silence by Brochettaward on Yemen!! A WAR is being ILLEGALLY WAGED and Brochettaward would rather deflect from that issue by talking about less consequential pay to play corruption!! Because you can only ever cover one issue at a time, and covering anything else is a coverup of all the more important issues!!

              1. More hyperbolic statmenets and strawmen. I notice you can’t point me to the last article on this website about anything related to her emails.

                What’s funny is I actually do regularly bring links into the comments on Syria and the other quagmires we have going on. More often than Reason writes articles on those subjects, in fact!

                I’m going to have reverse my ruling above. You have totally won the dumb fuck of the day award.

        2. Maybe the Reason editors think that obsessive focus on a story about a petty rules violation where no one was harmed and the government isn’t pursuing charges is a retarded distraction from real problems like omnipresent surveillance and police brutality.

          1. “…a petty rules violation…”

            It’s really the height of ignorance here. To even claimed no one was harmed is wrong. She discussed CIA and foreign intelligence assets – one of whom is now dead. Hillary was directing American foreign policy pretty much in the open for any foreign entity to access. She was doing it all in the name of preventing the public from gaining access to her communications in violation of numerous record keeping laws. There’s details – intimate details we don’t normally get to see – on how America’s interventionist foreign policy is conducted. We have lies. We have a complete double standard where other people are in jail right now for less.

            But you just see…a petty rules violation.

            1. That’s not as serious as ONGOING ILLEGAL WAR, Brochettaward!! You can’t cover that issue until all the bigger issues have been addressed, apparently!! You can’t even acknowledge those issues!! Let’s focus on the immoral illegal war first, then we can deal with some corruption coverage with your comments after that has been dealt with. STOP THIS WALL OF SILENCE.

              1. *would be relevant if I or Lizard’s initial comment had argued anything like this, but that did not happen and is thus irrelevant drivel.

            2. I’m assuming that “CIA and foreign intelligence assets” refers to human beings who signed up for dangerous spy work with the understanding that dying the field was a very real possibility. I also assume that since you mentioned it in context that this person’s death can be directly and unequivocally attributed to information that could only have been obtained through Hillary’s email.

              I’m further assuming that the source of your outrage is that the US government is allowed to keep any of this secret from the populace that they are ostensibly accountable to. In that case I agree that it is outrageous that the government is allowed to classify anything, but that’s a systemic issue and focusing on a bushel of mishandled emails kind of misses that point.

              1. …understanding that dying the field was a very real possibility.

                Are you being willfully dense right now? Signing up for a dangerous job does not excuse others from doing theirs. Hillary broke laws designed to protect the lives of those people. So when she openly talks about someone feeding us information on an unsecured server in violation of the law, she bears responsibility for what happens as a result.

                …attributed to information that could only have been obtained through Hillary’s email.

                “Here, let me set an impossibly high standard to prove that Hillary’s incompetence is an issue!”

                Beyond that, you don’t seem to have any clue of who or what I’m even talking about. Hey, maybe that’s because it was a story largely ignored by the media and itself. If I thought you had interest in an honest debate here, I’d go and provide you the info myself. But I don’t think that’s the case.

                your outrage is that the US government is allowed to keep any of this secret from the populace that they are ostensibly accountable to.

                So, in order to have an issue with Hillary breaking the law, I have to reject the entire notion that the government can keep any information hidden from the public…You know, something that goes back to George Washington’s presidency in terms of conducting foreign affairs.

                The laws Hillary broke aren’t meaningless and discussing her illegal behavior is separate from these broader questions.

              2. I’m assuming that “CIA and foreign intelligence assets” refers to human beings who signed up for dangerous spy work with the understanding that dying the field was a very real possibility.

                One could also assume that, having so signed up, they their superiors wouldn’t unnecessarily endanger them by flagrant and illegal disregard for simple and common sense information security.

          2. Hillary violated federal law. People have and will go to prison for mishandling classified information. The FBI and DOJ have and will recommend(ed) others go to federal prison for mishandling classified information. She also violated federal law relating to FOIA, to hide corrupt shit. FOIA is there to keep citizens abreast of what politicians are doing in our name.

    4. Who’s grilling Comey? What difference at this point does it make? Hillary and her crummy little toadies skated.

    5. Mr. Lizard, let me tell you why Trump is the real threat to the constitution.

      1. Your Future Reptile Overlords are well versed about threats.

  6. Look, with everything that’s going on – corruption in government, misuse of personal data, the 4th amendment being eviscerated– this isn’t the time to protest these abuses.

  7. It was nice knowing you Shackford….

  8. Big data is happening.

    The Germans are a very private people. They close and lock their bedroom doors in their own homes. But ordinary Germans who oppose Merkel’s refugee/immigration policy are being invaded by police for hate crimes.

    1. They don’t want someone to stumble in and see their nightly hour-long act of alternatively masturbating over and saluting the Hitler shrine each and every German has hidden in their bedroom.

      1. oh scheisse

        1. I forgot about that part of it. They also smear their Hitler effigy (Hitlergy?) with shit, because that’s what Germans do to things they love.

      2. “…alternatively…”

        Well Jim, you do them both at once if you were ambidextrous.

  9. Even if you triple that number, in a nation of 330 million people, it’s really a meaninglessly small problem. I (and incidentally an enormous number of my fellow voters) say, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

    1. If it saves just one nude sunbather…

      1. Well, if you just make nude sunbathing illegal, the cop is simply doing his job.

        1. I prefer the French approach… making clothed sunbathing illegal.

    2. I (and incidentally an enormous number of my fellow commenters) say fuck you roughly up the ass with a rusty sideways dinner fork. It’ll feel “meaninglessly small”….

      1. *adjusts Jake’s sarcometer*

        1. I’ll take my crow; we’re all assholes here, isn’t it glorious? And the sad part is you can never be 100% sure any more….

      2. We’re shipping a new Sarc-o-meter to you. It’ll be arriving Fed Ex, tomorrow morning.

      3. I really hope everyone’s been following my comments today. I might set a new record.

        1. Take that as a compliment. Real enough to fool rusty forkers.

        2. You didn’t get me this time! The batteries in my Sarc-O-Meter were low earlier!

      4. One person, being fucked up the ass with a rusty sideways dinner fork is, in the grand scheme of a nation of 330 million people, is no big deal, after all.

        1. I just choked on an M&M because of that comment, you asshole.

          1. It were a Skittle, instead of an M&M, you might have earned a *Narrows Gaze* from Switzy.

            1. *narrows gaze*

              Instead, you get one, doc!

  10. Over just two years they determined there were at least 650 cases where an employee or police officer was fired, suspended or otherwise disciplined

    Of course, in those same two years they’ve murdered as many innocent innocent people and nothing else happened.

  11. There’s no such thing as people with nothing to hide. Those people who claim to have nothing surely have something plus they’re liars.

    1. I’ve passed three lie detector tests for job interviews. The first time, I was nervous and foolishly told the truth.

      The second time, I thought, fuck it, and lied. And passed.

      The third time I decided to have a little fun with it, and made up lies about bad things I’d done and was pretending to admit to and passed. The interviewer asked me if I’d ever been fired from a job. I acted sheepish, and told him I’d been let go once after being caught having sex with my wife in the company bathroom. Afterward he said my stimulus response or whatever went up when I said that, but which was a result of the personal nature of the revelation. It really is a quack “science”.

      1. Lie detector readings don’t hold water unless they’re corroborated by your phrenology readings and your handwriting analysis. Everybody knows that.

      2. I probably wouldn’t work for a company that did ‘lie detector tests’, because they’re quack science.

        1. The government uses them for certain positions that deal with national secrets.

          All you need to know about the clandestine services and our government.

          1. The government uses them for certain positions that deal with national secrets.

            Yes, but they have the option of Sodium Pentathol for theirs, whereas private business is stuck with plain old, run-of-the-mill, lie detection specialists. Also, the use of software to identify unusual, specific, vocal intonations consistent with telling a lie is rather prevalent with both Gov and private business, unless otherwise prohibited by law* or one’s surname was Rodham, and the current one is Clinton.

            *If I am trying to discern if someone is a lying, I am not going to tell them first that I am testing them to determine their honesty and the veracity of their statements.

          2. They know it is garbage too, but use it as a chance to interrogate people, pretending it is scientific.

      3. I, on they other hand, have had sex with Gojira’s wife in the company bathroom.

  12. Just the other day, I heard somebody toss out, “If you’re not doing anything wrong…” unironically.

    We’re fucked.

  13. I have a reason people who have ‘nothing to hide’ should fear government surveillance to add to your three points;

    Government workers are slobs, and entirely too prone to miss-enter information, which will then be next to impossible to get corrected.

    1. and entirely too prone to miss-enter information, which will then be next to impossible to get corrected.

      I’ve personally experienced this. Had to pay a parking ticket entered twice, once with the address transposed.

  14. The human capacity to catalog evil is limited by the preoccupations of survival. Those who engineer the machinations of society potentiate the grindstone effect for this very fucking reason.

    Why the fuck would anyone think for a single goddamn second garages of death could never operate under the deceptive mantel of that bitch standing in the fucking harbor? Humanity is a thin puddle of tricks operating within diminished realities fucking lost in the shadows of shriveled paths and barren instants.

    1. We are three steps out of the cave with a lot of toys.

  15. If you have ever been accused of a crime, suspected of a crime, or even mentioned in the course of an investigation, then that information exists somewhere. Not only does it exist, but it is right at the fingertips of anyone in law enforcement who is curious about you. These are people who can to kill you, lie about it afterwards, and nothing else will happen.

    This is the world we live in.

  16. As long as it is done reluctantly and following industry best practices, I have no problem with it.

    Jill Stein is crying into her tequila.

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  18. In the government’s defense, no one could have seen this coming.

  19. Think Government Surveillance Is No Big Deal? Talk to These Victims of Police Stalking.
    Officials likely abuse access to government info databases on a daily basis.

    Now, now.
    All these underpaid cops were only looking for some lose change so they can buy a candy bar.
    This way, they will have at least something to eat for the day.

  20. Prohibition laws legalize confiscation of some drugs made an order of magnitude more costly by the prohibition law itself. To distribute that dope requires finding hepcats who can be induced to distribute the stuff and generate cash to feed the coffers of kleptocracy soft machines. Those soft machines churn the cash into more votes (real or fake–unverifiable either way) to elect more mystical bigots and pass more prohibition laws… Database access is what keeps the kleptocracy in business!

  21. As someone who was embezzled from via mail and wire fraud and a bevy of securities/trust/insurance/banking law violations around 9/11 by two transnational criminal enterprises (one where Bin Laden and others banked) and regularly targeted by associated organized criminals and corrupt (state and federal) officials for over a decade in one of the most corrupt states (and a nearby state), I have personally witnessed the result of this sort of BS. It’s incredibly hard to prove and involves an entrenched culture of incredibly conniving monsters. They will hound you till the end of time and you’ll get the runaround at the desk or guard post. Relentless control fraud, gang stalking and process abuse.

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