stories filed under: "databases"
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.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jan 18th 2008 2:07am
from the you-have-no-privacy dept
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.