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NHTSA Complaint Database Oozes Personal Data 62

Posted by timothy
from the now-that-sounds-jes-disgustin' dept.
EWNiedermeyer writes "Are your name, address, date of birth, driver's license number and Social Security number publicly available online? If you've been involved in an accident, they might be and you would never know. The Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration solicits defect complaints from the public, which are hosted on NHTSA's public database. There are about 792,000 of these complaints currently online, and as the video at the link proves, many of them are improperly redacted. As a result, the most personal information imaginable is available to anyone who takes the time to troll the database. This is a clear violation of the Privacy Act of 1974, and NHTSA needs to shut down the database until it can control the personal data stored there."
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NHTSA Complaint Database Oozes Personal Data

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  • Yes, it's bad. (Score:5, Informative)

    by gillbates (106458) on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:04PM (#32466584) Homepage Journal

    But a large part of the problem is that too many institutions consider the combination of a name and a number to be proof of identity. Take away this, and it's not nearly as problematic.

    Yes, it's bad. But anyone willing to pay a hundred bucks to register a corporation in Illinois can buy practically the same information from the DMV.

    • by brunes69 (86786)
      Why would the DMV even have your SSN?
      • by skids (119237) on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:16PM (#32466652) Homepage

        To verify your citizenship status. It's required on the license application/renewal form in my state. They were actually using the SSN as the drivers license number a couple decades ago.

        Any vehicle-related bureaucracy seems to get the lowest level of IT/administrative talent. Salaries must really suck or something.

        Though I do have to say despite continuing to lag behind the curve, they are definitely improving over time on some levels.

        • Any vehicle-related bureaucracy seems to get the lowest level of talent. Salaries must really suck or something.

          FTFY.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Our governments are so caught up in power grabbing that it's ridiculous at this point. Citizenship doesn't have anything to do with one's ability to drive safely. Driver's licenses should be about the latter. By turning the DMV into a checkpoint for citizenship you ensure, not that the DMV is going to catch all the aliens, but that all the aliens are going to avoid the DMV. This guarantees a significant level of unlicensed, uninsured drivers on the streets. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy: Oh nos, all

          • by quanticle (843097)

            Yes, but unfortunately, the drivers license has evolved from a simple "I'm licensed to operate a motor vehicle" document to a generalized proof of identity. The national ID card act proposed by the previous administration would have gone even farther in this direction.

            In fact, the elderly, who often give up their driver's license, can have trouble proving their identity, because they no longer have access to the most readily accepted identity document in the US: a state drivers' license.

            • Not sure if your state lacks them, but Florida has State ID cards for those who can't get or don't want a driver's license. This is primarily used by those who've lost their licences to excessive DUI/DWI convictions (common here in a state with drive-through beer & liquor stores).

          • This guarantees a significant level of unlicensed, uninsured drivers on the streets. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy: Oh nos, all these illegal aliens are driving around crazy and uninsured! We have to catch them any way we can and get rid of them!

            I live in a state (New Mexico) that issues drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. It has no effect on the number of uninsured drivers; in fact, our premiums are generally much higher here than anywhere else precisely because you're more likely to get into a

          • You've just described South Florida, and the reason why our car insurance is among the most costly in the nation (we're back and forth at the top over the years with New York and California).

            Remember the "don't go to work" protest against the politicians who wanted to round up and deport all illegal aliens back in 2006? (if not, google "Un Dia Sin Inmigrantes") The day collectively called in sick? The freeways during rush hour down here were as empty as 4am on a Sunday!

            If it's not obvious, I agree with the

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          a couple decades ago they also printed on the stub of the social security card that you should always keep the card with you... then the text changed to you should never keep the card with you. stupid government.
        • by azrider (918631) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @10:59AM (#32468708)

          To verify your citizenship status.

          Wrong. The reason for your SSN being collected is Child Support Enforcement.

      • by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3@nospaM.gmail.com> on Saturday June 05, 2010 @12:32AM (#32466906)
        I work as a software developer in public safety, and SSN's are an integral part our some of our NCIC queries. Your a body with a number.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by drsmithy (35869)

        Why would the DMV even have your SSN?

        AZ, at least, requires it (or a damn good reason why you don't have one - eg: immigrant w/o a work permit) to get a license.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by AHuxley (892839)
        They might be wanting to slowly build up to the idea of a
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/100_point_check [wikipedia.org] with local characteristics.
        Layers of interconnected databases, public and private that light up as you interact with or buy into something eg a mobile phone.
        It started with banking in Australia. In the US it might be the DMV?
      • by hymie! (95907)

        Back when I lived in New York, I had a Taxi Driver's license. They required SSN for this. That was, oh, 1990-ish?

    • I've never been to the US, but something confuses me about the SSN.

      How can a number that you are required to give to every man and their dog (driver licence, student enrolment etc.) even be considered secret enough that it proves ID?

      Perhaps the (ab)use of the SSN is why the Australian Government specifically prohibit the use of a tax file number as an identifier by anyone other than the Tax Office and only financial organisation have the right to ask for it (and none can compel, but they have to tax high i

  • No more access (Score:5, Informative)

    by clang_jangle (975789) on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:05PM (#32466590) Journal
    Seems NHTSA has stopped access to it now, according to Edward Niedermeyer's latest at TTAC [thetruthaboutcars.com].
  • Are people with EZ-pass / I-pass on that list as well?

  • by YourExperiment (1081089) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @03:39AM (#32467498)

    As a result, the most personal information imaginable is available to anyone who takes the time to troll the database

    Hey, database! You know what I SELECTed * FROM last night? Yo momma!

  • by OpenSourced (323149) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @04:20AM (#32467624) Journal

    Slashdot is the culprit now, for pointing out where the data was to be found.

    • > Slashdot is the culprit now, for pointing out where the data was to be found.

      Philosophically, most of slashdot is against security through obscurity, so occasionally an article will pop up saying to everyone in the neighborhood "Hey, look everyone! These fifty thousand front doors are open, even though you might not have noticed driving by!"

      I'm not sure whether it's because slashdotters want to incentivize fixing the system or whether they just want to point out how badly it's designed and implemented

  • As a result, the most personal information imaginable is available to anyone who takes the time to troll the database.

    So, this complaint database contains the photographs of my genital warts, and the way I had them camouflaged by being tattooed in contrasting stripes of telephone-black and white-white. That's the most personal information that I can imagine.
    Maybe the submitter, summary writer, or original author has a particularly small and limited imagination based on a small and limited range of personal

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