Declan McCullagh
Sheriff misusing FBI computer can't be sued

A federal appeals court said this week that the sheriff of Shawnee County, Kan., could not be sued for snooping through an FBI database for dirt on political enemies.

Oh yay. The FBI's Interstate Identification Index (III) he abused has 50.5 million people. I wonder what happens when they have even better information on people. So much of the law protects the police and assumes they are "good". In Japan, when I talk about the possibility of cases like this, people laugh.

Information collected about people by the government is and will be increasingly used for political ends. We need to work on measures to investigate and punish such abuses and fundamentally reconsider the cost benefit of creating such databases prone to abuse.

via Dan Gillmor

5 Comments

Wow, that's in my state, maybe two counties away. Infuriating that it's not in the local news.

In Japan, when I talk about the possibility of cases like this, people laugh.

As in, they laugh because that would never happen here or because it does all the time and they are apathetic and don't see why you care???

Laugh because they can't imagine it happening I think.

In "The Transparent Society", David Brin concludes that there are two paths: controlling tightly the use of those informations sources, or, reversely, opening them to public scrutiny. The last one, i.e., having public in general able to do what this guy did, seems like the better long term solution, paradoxal but true and well argumented in the book.

Santiago, I think Brin make a good argument, but I don't see how we get there from here. Half-way is about the worst situation. I can't imagine how those in power will allow transparency of their structures to ever be allowed. Ironically, I see e-democracy in smaller more developing nations where those in power are trying to gain the trust of the public by making things publicly visible. I think it also works in smaller countries like some of the Nordic countries where there is a great deal of transparency (or at least more). I can not imagine true transparency in the US any time soon so I think you'd better hold on to your privacy tightly.

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