MN State Rep Joins 17 Others In Suing State For Illegally Accessing Drivers License Data

from the sorry-about-the-violations,-here's-someone-else's-money dept

You know you've gone too far in abusing access to the public's data when you've got a local politician doing something more than yelling about it on the campaign trail. Earlier this year, a report by state auditors discovered that more than half of Minnesota's 11,000 law enforcement agents had misused the Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS) database.

This discovery led to the filing of a few lawsuits, but as further details have emerged, bigger plaintiffs are filing bigger lawsuits.

Steve Drazkowski, a Republican Minnesota state representative, becomes the latest politician in the state to sue various local and state agencies over public employees accessing his and his family’s driver’s license data as part of a campaign of political retaliation. He is suing along with 17 other state residents who say their data was accessed more than 600 times since 2003. Drazkowksi says the actions go back to when he first ran for state office, and was motivated by his fiscally conservative stance toward unions.
It's probably not a good idea for public servants to further irritate a state rep who already takes a very dim view towards unions and the public sector in general. Erick Kaardal, the attorney representing the group, says the data accesses were clearly politically-motivated.
For example, [Kaardal] said, the plaintiffs' data was accessed after announcements for political candidacy, on the day letters critical of the government were printed in the newspaper and on dates immediately following county board meetings where group members challenged public officials.

"They even went after the private data of my wife and my daughter — why?" State Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said in the statement.
If these public servants were expecting to dig up a little dirt or intimidate someone, it clearly backfired. If that was the intent, it seems like it would have been cheaper to pay a per diem to a private investigator and send out someone from New Jersey waste management to take out a few kneecaps.
Federal law allows for a minimum of $2,500 for each violation of the Driver's Privacy Protection Act, which makes it illegal to get an individual's private data without a legitimate purpose. Kaardal said damages could exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars.
That's 600 alleged violations at $2.5k each in this lawsuit alone. Across the state, 530 additional claims have been filed against 160 municipalities. And Tom Grundhoefer, general counsel of the League of Minnesota Cities, says the number is "going up daily."

Also named in many of the lawsuits is the Department of Public Safety itself, which is accused of allowing "lax access" and failing to crack down on the "widespread abuse" uncovered by the state's audit.

Ultimately, though, this will all land on the public, not because they accessed the records illegally, but because collecting settlements from state agencies means handing out tax dollars. Public servants are supposed to be good stewards of the money they've been entrusted with. Violating citizens' privacy and then asking them to pay for these violations is screwing them twice.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    miatajim (profile), Sep 17th, 2013 @ 4:17pm

    "Ultimately, though, this will all land on the public, not because they accessed the records illegally, but because collecting settlements from state agencies means handing out tax dollars. Public servants are supposed to be good stewards of the money they've been entrusted with. Violating citizens' privacy and then asking them to pay for these violations is screwing them twice."

    Make is personal liability, jail time.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Sep 17th, 2013 @ 4:24pm

    Simple enough...

    Instead of having tax payer money pay them for damages, take the money out of the Pensions and/or bank accounts of each officer individually.

    Course, that's bad too, but it's a thought...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2013 @ 4:30pm

    it is just that simple

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2013 @ 7:31pm

    public servants knowingly abusing the public trust like this seems like it might actually be one of the very very few situations where zero tolerance policies might actually appropriate.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    madasahatter (profile), Sep 17th, 2013 @ 9:40pm

    Payment

    The wages or assets of the individuals who did the illegal searches should be seized. If they can not pay garnishment or prison could be options.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Shaun Wilson (profile), Sep 17th, 2013 @ 11:34pm

    Re:

    Exactly, if a police officer or any other government official breaks the law they should be the one to face the consequences just like and private citizen. Similarly if they break into the wrong house serving a warrant they should be treated exactly as if anyone else illegally broke into someone's house, being liable for trespass, breaking and entering, assault with regards to anyone they detain or threaten and murder if they kill anyone.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 4:41am

    this is just another example of 'the big brother' syndrome. soon, everyone's data is going to be available to whoever wants it. dont think it will be limited to just the various government agencies. they cant look after or keep control of anything. what they do do is use the bullying tactics all the time to achieve what they want but then forget to lock the data away!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 7:15am

    Re:

    Sure. That's gonna happen.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    lakhvir singh, Jan 28th, 2014 @ 6:10am

    Is this for us?
    well lets see

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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