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Michigan Police Misuse Electronic Database 19

Pointing to this Detroit Free PRess article, Pat writes: "The lead paragraph says it all:' Police throughout Michigan, entrusted with the personal and confidential information in a state law enforcement database, have used it to stalk women, threaten motorists and settle scores.' Gotta love these databases." Considering a lot of people have access to ever-consolidating databases about your personal life, this is the sort of thing I plan to point to the next time I hear accusations of paranoia.
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Michigan Police Misuse Electronic Database

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Deckard: I was quit when I came in here, Bryant. I'm twice as quit now.

    Bryant: Stop right where you are. You know the score pal. If you're not cop, you're little people.

    And that was of course, a threat. Gaff, who's standing nearby, produces an origami chicken and sets it next to Deckard.

    The real world is not quite so severe in most cases but the lesson is the reality of power and control.

  • By this I mean the story about the Michigan Police, but now that I have your attention, check out this apparently hidden story l [] about how the DoD released something and then decided that it was classified and they're threating MIT and a professor there about it.
  • This is, IMO, not so much a technological problem as it is a police corruption issue.

    And where does that corruption come from? It is, after all, power that corrupts. And the more absolute the power that we give law enforcement, the more absolutely certain we may be that they will be corrupt.
  • by camusflage ( 65105 ) on Wednesday August 01, 2001 @03:55AM (#2178174)
    Too bad this didn't make the cut for the front page. It's exactly this kind of shit that makes massive databases so problematic.

    FYI, this was a two part series. Part two can be found here [].
  • by karb ( 66692 ) on Wednesday August 01, 2001 @05:35PM (#2178175)
    This is, IMO, not so much a technological problem as it is a police corruption issue.

    I disagree ... give any group of people this power, and they would abuse it. I can't think of any group of people that doesn't have some bad eggs.

    The reason I bring this up is because it is a case where there is a clear technical solution ... control the data, and let police officers know that their queries will be audited to make sure they are using the data properly.

    Imagine if your workplace allowed anybody to view the payroll. Imagine the chaos that would ensue. This is what happens to the police (or anybody) when you give them uncontrolled access to anything like this.

  • by bruhaha ( 100629 ) on Tuesday July 31, 2001 @01:46PM (#2178176)
    Information == power.

    Creating a database - as in the FBI's database on criminals - gives the owner leverage which can be used against those in the database. Linked databases create a more powerful database - which means more power. Combining the FBI's database with the IRS' database produces interesting results.

    Privacy is increasingly an illusion. If people don't know what you're up to, it's because they don't want to take the time to find out.

    What can be done to stop this trend? Probably nothing. Information will be increasingly available to more and more people. Recall the hacker ethic - "Information wants to be free." This has dangerous implications for your continued privacy. What if information really was free? What if everyone could know everything that you were up to? What if you had no privacy at all?

    These are important issues for society to address. Should we expect better behavior from our police forces? Should we expect better behavior from the average citizen?

    They say that people who live in glass houses ought not throw bricks. It seems like these days we're all living in glass houses. Only some of us don't yet realize it.

  • a USA which places cops squarely above the law in just about every respect?

    Yes, these databases are pretty damn frightening, but they would be a whole lot less spooky if law enforcement officials were held to the rule of criminal law and tort law to which the "rabble" (read: rest of us) are bound.

    The only highly public case which I can think of offhand of a police officer going to prison for misdeeds was the Abner Louima case, and this occurred mostly because the behavior in question had nothing to do with law enforcement, and the act itself was so egregiously subhuman that nothing could excuse it. Yet Louima is still alive.

    The same cannot be said for Amadou Diallo. Or Patrick Dorismond. The undercover cops who were involved in these cases are, today... still weapon-carrying cops.

  • An important point, though, is that in some cases we want that power to be available to at least some people. That's the reason that some of the databases were created in the first place; when they're used properly and lawfully they can be very valuable. If the police find evidence that John Doe is going on a killing spree, it's nice if they can call up a list of known favorite hideouts, associates, etc. so that they can catch him faster.

    Unfortunately the databases are necessarily accessed by people and not all of them are going to be trustworthy, even in jobs like the police where we'd like to think otherwise. The problem is not so much that there's a database with people's information in it as that the police force is full of the kind of people who are willing to abuse the system (and break the law) to "stalk women, threaten motorists and settle scores." This is, IMO, not so much a technological problem as it is a police corruption issue.

    Karma down to 50 again. Thanks Karma Kap.

  • In other news, pigs are the latest victims of the establishment, forced into lives of crime by lack of education and low wages.

    Film at eleven if the station is not hit by a power company mindfuck, er, uh, rolling blackout.


  • < was public record of which officer accessed the information>

    Would the police department voluntarily specify such a requirement?

    I can see that the two possible answers to this question reduce to either "No" or "Hell NO!!! No Fscking WAY!!!"

    You are right - This would require legislation to make such private database access publicly accessible. And given the track record of legislation as applied to anything in the least technical, it would likely be either ineffective or disastrous.

    It looks like Scott McNealy was right

    Ok, That's who it was. Thanks.

  • I can't remember which high muk-a-muk at Sun said it, but "You have no privacy. Get over it".

    Well, privacy was nice while it lasted. These databases exist, and will continue to exist, and their use will continue regardless of legality.

    On the other hand, maybe the problem is there's too much privacy - for the police using the database. If every plate they ran, or person they looked up, it was public record of which officer accessed the information, complete with a verifiable reason for making the enquiry, then the supervisors that just give quiet slaps on the wrist for misuse of the database could face some repercussions themselves.

    Regardless of the method, it is a expectation that police officers should be held to a much higher standard of integrity than the average citizen. (This is also legal expectation in many jurisdictions, though the standard is not frequently met in any.) But how can they be held to any standard without some accountability?

  • Police are paid less then 30k a year, they are for the most part bullies and brutes. Can we really expect people of this caliber, paid little, to actually do things other than behave like themselves.
  • "you could infer what kind of guy the chick liked, and become that kind of person (at least when you're around her), as well as arrange to 'accidentally' bump into her."

    No offense, but if you can't get a date through any other way, your genes weren't meant to be spread in the typical fashion...

    IBM had PL/1, with syntax worse than JOSS,
  • Think of what happens when one of the guys who maintains the database happens to be not-so-trustworthy! Not every shop in the world with sensitive data has tight controls--picture a state motor vehicles registry after a budget cut, understaffed, and a hot tech with pretty much free reign. The most sensitive stuff fits on removable media now (CD-R or few). Best case: total honesty, nothing goes wrong. Fair to middlin' case: Hot tech takes a copy of the DMV database, "just in case" he needs to look up someone discreetly. Worse case: Hot tech needs money and sells the registry to organized crime. Makes a few corrupt patrolmen look like small potatoes. At least their queries had been audited.
  • There has been similar problems almost at every place where SEARCH INFORMATION IS NOT LOGGED. There has to be some system detecting who's making a search request, and there has to be an agency of some kind monitoring these requests.

    This information is just too powerful.

  • This is unacceptable behavior of people for people of any temperament, getting paid any salary.

    It's ridiculous that these "LEIN" checks are not audited, and that those audits themselves are not audited.

    I'm pretty lenient when it comes to cookies and giving out my e-mail address and other sorts of "soft" privacy intrusions, but this is (obviously) unacceptable by any standard.

    Yeah, go ahead and mod this redundant ;-)

  • was public record of which officer accessed the information

    Would the police department voluntarily specify such a requirement? The department, not the legislature, is the customer the software contractor wants to satisfy. Even if there were such regulations, the legislature would mess them up, and the department would comply only minimally.

    It looks like Scott McNealy was right.

  • From Part 2 [] of the article:
    Because LEIN machines are often left on and users are not assigned individual passwords to access the system, investigators frequently have trouble proving who violated the system....
    Kathy Rector, executive director of the LEIN policy council, said individual passwords may soon be assigned to LEIN users to improve security by matching police to individual LEIN inquiries.
    That's a rather obvious hole, don't you think?
  • [police officers] use LEIN to check out attractive people they spot on the road.
    Former Memphis Police Chief Phillip Ludos said the practice is so common it is known simply as "Running a plate for a date."

    That's really funny, kudos to the pigs for the neat hack. Using the system for a purpose it was not intended for, heck I wish I could just run the plates of some of the chicks I see here in L.A. - if you gathered enough information from enough sources, you could infer what kind of guy the chick liked, and become that kind of person (at least when you're around her), as well as arrange to "accidentally" bump into her. And I thought pulling people's docs was only used for evil.

Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do. -- R. A. Heinlein