Thursday, May 7, 2009

Police Powers

We are constantly told that we must give the police more powers. We are constantly told that we can of course trust the police to only use these powers to protect us, and that they'd never abuse those powers.

How's that working out?

Police prying into stars' data on

Law enforcement personnel looked up personal information on Patriots star Tom Brady 968 times - seeking anything from his driver's license photo and home address, to whether he had purchased a gun - and auditors discovered "repeated searches and queries" on dozens of other celebrities such as Matt Damon, James Taylor, Celtics star Paul Pierce, and Red Sox owner John Henry, said two state officials familiar with the audit.

The Criminal Offender Record Information system, with its massive databases of criminal records, driving histories, car ownership, and Social Security numbers, is intended to provide police and prosecutors with complete portraits of individuals who have been arrested or brought into the court system. Reports are available to other users such as landlords and some employers conducting background checks on prospective tenants and job seekers. Access is supposed to be restricted to authorized law enforcement users, who are specially trained.

Of course, investigators can check on famous names to see how often they've had their privacy violated. But, what about the next-door neighbors to these police officers? What about the guy who's trying to date some girl they like? Or some guy who crosses paths with one of these police officers and maybe gets into some conflict with them? How many other times and in how many other ways has this database been mis-used?

And of course, there's never in history been a corrupt officer who would access this data for others in return for payment. Anyone want to guess on how many times organized crime has accessed this database by paying a police officer to look up someone?

There are reasons why people have always felt that the best protection of the liberty of citizens is to prevent the police from collecting this data in the first place. Human nature being what it is, its a pretty sure bet that once the database is created that it will be mis-used.

And, if you read closely, its not just the police who have access to this. Its also 'landlords' and employers doing background checks. Hope you enjoy everyone in the world having access to lots of information about you that is in no way related to any criminal activity. Like what car you own. Like what your social security number is. Like where you live. Nice to know all that's out there the next time you steal a girl from some angry jerk.

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