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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Le Blue Dude, Feb 26th, 2008 @ 11:53pm

    Who needs privacy anyway?

    Everyone. It's really a good thing.

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

  2. identicon
    Le Blue Dude, Feb 26th, 2008 @ 11:54pm

    What I mean to say

    What I meant to say is that privacy is a good thing. Some people say that only those who do wrong fear privacy violation. But the world isn't black and white. Everyone does stuff that embarrasses them

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

  3. identicon
    Griper, Feb 27th, 2008 @ 1:07am

    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?

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

  4. identicon
    jeannie, Feb 27th, 2008 @ 1:11am

    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?

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 27th, 2008 @ 5:20am

    Re: What I mean to say

    It doesn't just have to be embarrassing. Everyone does things that someone else might find embarrassing, objectionable, or otherwise worthy of censure. We shouldn't have to be vulnerable to that kind of scrutiny.

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 27th, 2008 @ 6:28am

    Interesting thought totally unrelated to the article (well, I guess.)

    The Google ads on this page are DBT Therapy in Seattle, Male Survivors of Abuse, Polygraph Sexual Abusers and Clergy Sex Abuse Cases.

    Haha, I wonder what that says about Techdirt Readers.

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

  7. identicon
    Dave Zawislak, Feb 27th, 2008 @ 6:50am

    Re: Who needs privacy anyway?

    "Everyone. It's really a good thing."

    Agreed. Today innocence might be tomorrows vice.

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

  8. identicon
    JB, Feb 27th, 2008 @ 7:19am

    Firing Offense

    I have a friend who works for a credit card company in their call center. He said they fire people who look up the records of famous people.

    If they look up the records of anyone other than a customer who they are helping they can and will be fired.

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

  9. identicon
    Mark Regan, Feb 27th, 2008 @ 8:00am

    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.

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

  10. identicon
    nipseyrussell, Feb 27th, 2008 @ 9:37am

    mark - no recourse? i would think you would have a pretty good civil case even if this isnt illegal

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

  11. identicon
    Anonymous (this time), Feb 27th, 2008 @ 11:51am

    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.

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

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 27th, 2008 @ 1:41pm

    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.

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

  13. identicon
    brad, Mar 31st, 2008 @ 10:24am

    I think that privacy should always be granted to those who want it, do to the fact there are people that feel insecure about who they are, and people just knock them down.

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

  14. identicon, Dec 23rd, 2008 @ 2:48am

    Pretty cool though.

    Try these sites if you want to waste some more time and money

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

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