Bureaucrats Use Government Databases to Snoop for Personal Information About Celebrities
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Some observers may find it difficult to muster sympathy for the rich and famous, but such scandals aren’t limited to the highest-profile people.
Another Customs and Border Protection officer pled guilty in 2008 to accessing TECS over 100 times while spying on his girlfriend, who frequently crossed the border from her home in Mexico. He was also accused of lying to FBI agents about his use of TECS.
Officials praised a new criminal-justice database in Tennessee that allowed police easier access to records for more quickly resolving investigations, a trend that swept the country after Sept. 11 when officials sought to better collect, analyze and share critical intelligence about possible terrorists. But the Nashville Tennessean found in 2008 that hundreds of law-enforcement agencies were given the keys to it with poor oversight.
Two highway patrolmen were reprimanded for backgrounding their families and ex-spouses, a county commissioner reportedly looked up info on fellow politicians and municipal officials, and a police lieutenant was fired amid accusations that he conducted wrongful checks on nearly 200 people, many of whom were women.
The most worrisome discovery in Tennessee, however, may be that nearly four decades after Americans became aware of a need for laws like the Privacy Act, authorities didn’t consider the protection of sensitive data a top priority.
According to the Tennessean:
The idea of preventing abuse or devoting extra resources to training was not a focus during the creation of the system. ‘Maybe we should have emphasized it more or made a bigger deal about it in retrospect,’ said David Raybin [a Nashville attorney who helped with the data portal’s development]. ‘I don’t want to say it was a mistake, because there is no system you can design that is 100-percent foolproof. You can train from today until tomorrow, and at the end of the day it requires a certain amount of trust of the law enforcement officers.