For years, the government has pushed repeatedly to build bigger and more comprehensive databases of information around citizens. There are certainly justifications that can be made for such databases -- so long as people weigh those justifications against the fact that the databases will absolutely be abused. We recently wrote about the case where a government employee used a Homeland Security computer system to track
an ex-girlfriend. The latest story is that a corrupt customs agent was selling access to federal databases
. While it's good that he was caught, he wasn't caught due to any protection mechanisms put in place, but because a drug dealer who had been paying the customs agent for access to the database, was stopped for a traffic violation, and the police officer noticed the business card for the customs agent. The police then followed up to try to figure out why the guy had the agent's card, leading to the story unfolding. Hopefully, since then, more stringent protections have been put in place, but it seems likely that there are still plenty of questionable uses of these sorts of databases.