Not Just The Government Who Abuses Access To Confidential Records

from the databases-of-confidential-info-get-abused,-period dept

Last month, we wrote that whenever a government entity puts together a large database of private, confidential data, it will get abused. In all honesty, we never should have limited that to just the “government.” News reports are coming out about a case in Wisconsin where apparently employees at the state’s largest energy company regularly snooped through private records to find out all sorts of information on all different kinds of people. Among the information accessed by employees: “credit and banking information, payment histories, address and phone numbers, and Social Security numbers.” And, for what purposes? “Examples included a woman that often perused information on an ex-boyfriend, a woman who searched for the address of her child’s father, and a part-time landlord who investigated prospective tenants. Another worker leaked information on a mayoral candidate’s habit of paying heating bills late, possibly affecting the election.” Once again, at this point, you probably should just assume that you have no privacy whatsoever — but you should be wary any time someone tells you that the database they’ve put together is somehow secure and safe from privacy violations.

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Comments on “Not Just The Government Who Abuses Access To Confidential Records”

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Griper says:

The government is made up of people, like everyone else, severly flawed. I don’t know anyone who can say with a straight face that a system relying on human restraint to remain secure is trustworthy. And to add to it the corrupting nature of oversightless power. Everyone knows that when given a chance people will try to abuse the authority they have for selfish gain. Its human nature, and after all aren’t we humans?

jeannie says:

Is there a useful lesson here?

The issue of privacy goes beyond a personal choice to lead a “transparent” life – a lot of the information described probably could have been obtained legitimately, and yes, we probably should assume we have no privacy whatsoever – but that doesn’t make it acceptable for bored or opportunistic employees to browse records for personal information. And although this doesn’t seem to be the situation in this example, the banking information certainly could be used in a financial scam with devastating results. But what good does being “wary” do? The bills are going to be paid and the database is going to exist. So what do we do?

Mark Regan says:

Abuse of "Confidential Records"

My daughter was going through a divorce, so her ex-husband’s mother, who worked for the legal department at the city owned electric company, and had access to ALL public and private databases, used those confidential records to pull information about not only my daughter, but also about each of the witnesses who testified on her behalf in the divorce hearing, and each of her relatives, and then began spreading negative information she found out into the gossip network at the courthouse in order to influence the judge. I am now, more than ever, aware of the pretense of “privacy rights” and “ethics” of governmental employees. There is NO recourse, as her boss, the city attorney, the court, and the mayor’s office REFUSE to document her “personal” activities during the course of her paid workday.

Anonymous (this time) says:

another data point

I have an ex-girlfriend who works for BlueCross/BlueShield. My company uses BC/BS as a medical plan, so she and I have had conversations about whether she would ever see my records. She told me that (while she insists she never does it [heh]), others in her office do look up the insurance records of people they know.

Obviously, they would get fired if found doing this. But when people have to have access to records for legitimate purposes, it is very tough to keep them out of the records for illegitimate purposes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Cops too

I know a guy who is a cop and if he sees a good looking woman that interests him driving around he uses their license plate number to find out who they are, where they live, their family status and so forth. If he likes what he finds he’ll then increase his patrols in their neighborhood in order to increase the odds of a “chance” encounter with them.

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