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New Jersey DMV Employees Caught Selling Identities 279

phaedrus5001 writes "Ars has an article about two New Jersey DMV employees who have been accused of selling personal information they routinely had access to. The NJ prosecutor's office claims (PDF) their investigation 'uncovered that two employees of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission were providing the names, addresses, dates of birth and social security numbers of unsuspecting residents that they obtained through their employment. They were charging as little as $200 per identity.'"
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New Jersey DMV Employees Caught Selling Identities

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  • This is more proof (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 28, 2011 @01:46PM (#38192440)

    More proof that the best government is the one that governs least.

  • SSNs? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Manip ( 656104 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @01:51PM (#38192490)
    Why can normal day to day employees even view plain text social security numbers? Wouldn't it make a lot more sense to hide that information like banks do with credit card numbers?

    Also, I find it ironic that these two relatively low level criminals will get the book thrown at them, but when the DMV legally sells that information to marketing companies everyone is happy. I guess they don't sell SSNs but still, thin line.
  • by smpoole7 ( 1467717 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @01:52PM (#38192508) Homepage

    It's not a government vs. private sector thing, either. The simple fact is, you will always be able to find some corruptible person who's will to sell (or "leak," if he/she is just trying to harm a rival) information.

    I'm a geek and I loves me some technology, but still, I'm not blind to the dangers of giant databases filled with sensitive data And to be honest, I itch at the thought that anyone -- be it the federal government (with the Affordable Health Care Act) or private business (think of some large, national hospital group) has access to all of my medical records -- including prescriptions, diagnoses, and all the rest of it.

    But I don't know what the answer is. Someone smarter than me will have to come up with that.

  • Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aerorae ( 1941752 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @01:52PM (#38192510)
    I didn't realize that our identities were so worthless. Whether it is attributed to evil, or a lack of humanity on the part of the two employees, this represents a fundamental problem among people today: "Doesn't affect me, so I don't care."
    I believe that will destroy us even faster than bank collapses or political corruption, in a sense because those maladies are results of the "I don't care" problem. "I can buy these horrible securities, if it goes bad, it doesn't affect me, so I don't care", "My constituents want this, sure it'll put 100,000 people out of work, but it doesn't affect me, so I don't care", "Hell I'll sell peoples identities, sure they'll be plagued by this for a matter of decades to come, but it doesn't affect me, so I don't care."
    People need to care about things that don't affect them or else this world is very very doomed.
  • by schwit1 ( 797399 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @01:53PM (#38192532)

    How does providing a SSN verify that the DL requester is who they say they are?

  • Re:SSNs? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the_fat_kid ( 1094399 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @01:58PM (#38192578)

    normal day to day employees can probably read them because we have become lax about where we use our SSN.
    Want a phone? SSN
    want a rental? SSN
    want credit? SSN
    talk to someone at support? SSN

    Once upon a time these were supposed to be a Secret number that you only shared with the government and an employer.
    Now it's how you prove your citizenship and credit worth.

  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @01:59PM (#38192612)

    Because a private company would never be caught doing something like this. Nope. They are all completely above any kind of corruption.

    Unlike the DMV, a private company can't force you to use their services. Nor can they push a unique identifier on you which is then used as an id by numerous different databases.

  • Re:SSNs? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by flaming error ( 1041742 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @02:01PM (#38192640) Journal

    Social Security Numbers were never really meant to be all that secret.

    Every organization that decided to use them as a secret was stupid, and if they were intended to secure anything important, irresponsible/criminal.

    SSNs, like biometrics, have all the right characteristics for account ids, and all the wrong characteristics for a password.

  • by cptdondo ( 59460 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @02:01PM (#38192642) Journal

    Great soundbite. Now expand on it. Tell us how, exactly, you would put your proposal into practice.

    Fewer cops? Less regulations? Which ones? Fewer teachers? No DMV (and no vehicle registrations, or safety regulations, or license plates, or insurance?)

    I want to know.

  • by zAPPzAPP ( 1207370 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @02:03PM (#38192664)

    If the private company owns any of your local infrastructure, or it got an outsourcing deal for a former gouvernment service that you need to use, how do you avoid them?
    Because that's what "less gov" means around here.

  • by cptdondo ( 59460 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @02:04PM (#38192672) Journal

    Experian? Other credit rating companies?

    I'm sure I could come up with a lot of others that disprove your hypothesis. There are lots and lots of private companies that we have to do business with. We have no choice in the matter.

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @02:13PM (#38192768) Homepage

    The solution that someone much smarter than me (Bruce Schneier) has repeatedly proposed is this: When doing something that involves sensitive data, you don't verify identity, you verify transactions. For instance, if you want to transfer money from your bank account, the question is not "Are you smpoole7?", it's "Does smpoole7 really want $150,000 to go to an account in Pakistan?". A smart bank will use alternate ways of contacting you (if they're really worried, they might even ask that you do this in person) to confirm that it is in fact your intent.

    This has a lot of ancillary benefits that probably make it worth the expense. For instance, it helps catch errors by the actual owner of the account.

  • by Jessified ( 1150003 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @02:17PM (#38192802)

    Well, just like if you don't like airport security you don't have to fly, if you don't like the DMV you don't have to drive, amiright? /sarcasm

  • Re:Sigh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 28, 2011 @02:23PM (#38192848)

    Welcome to the repercussions of the "Me" generation. It all started with shifting focus from the outside and how to fit into society and live with others to the inside. People don't know how to empathize with others any more. If it feels good to them, do it. Thanks hippies.

  • by jmottram08 ( 1886654 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @02:25PM (#38192882)
    It might interest you that there used to be way fewer teachers, no administrators, no dept of education ... and the quality of education was way higher. It might also interest you that the DMV could actually be reduced in size and scope while still making insurance mandatory, same with licence plates. Vehicle registration? deos it really cost 100+$ a year to keep my VIN on record? Safety? The (federal) dept of transportation handles that, not the DMV.

    So what does the DMV by and large do? Drivers licences. Which are worthless as they dont do driving tests anymore. . . its a computer test and you can get your license without taking the practical test... certainly not any indication of whether or not you can drive. And they can be renewed online, so you dont even have to pass a eye test -or- a practical.

    If you really think that the DMV does anything good you need to think again.

  • by neonKow ( 1239288 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @02:39PM (#38193054) Journal

    You are probably forced to use Experian a lot more than you are forced to use New Jersey DMV.

  • by lucifuge31337 ( 529072 ) <daryl@introspect.ELIOTnet minus poet> on Monday November 28, 2011 @02:41PM (#38193074) Homepage

    "I'll take the sniper rifle and a couple of boxes of ammo. Am I convicted felon with a history of violence? No sir, I am not. Why thank you, you have a good day too!"

    This might be a convincing argument if it weren't for the fact that one can do this in most states legally for a private party face to face transfer. Also, "sniper rifles" aren't all that scary. They are typically nothing more than an off the rack deer rifle (that you can walk in and buy from Wal Mart) with a bipod and a different stock. Better ones have some accuracy work done to them, but it's really not much of a huge difference.

  • by jackbird ( 721605 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @02:41PM (#38193082)

    A credit check is increasingly becoming part of employment screening, and is entirely necessary for both renting and purchasing a home (unless buying the home for cash). Being homeless rises above "inconvenient."

    Providing a social security number is also required to open a bank account, the lack of which is also a bit more than "inconvenient."

  • by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @02:45PM (#38193140) Homepage Journal

    This is the debate. If you don't like the restrictions, don't drive.

    This is the WRONG attitude and approach.

    We expect our government to, among other things, serve us by managing certain things. One of these is the licensing of drivers, so that we can be marginally safe on the roads, that entirely unqualified drivers are not allowed to operate vehicles, and that dangerous drivers are removed from the road to some degree. Imperfection is rampant, but it works farly well.

    Driving is, in much of American a NECESSITY. To claim it is a privilege may be linguistically accurate, but it is not accurate at all. It is a necessity for most of us.

    In that light, our governments' role shoudl never be to make licensing as difficult as possible, nor should it be to force applicants to exert themselves merely to satisfy the bureacracy's self-serving purposes. It should be the goverments' role to facilitate and deliver the needed service, IE licensing etc.

    The argument that driving is a privilege is to leave open the option that for some reason, we should serve our govermnent. The opposite is the desired relationship, and one that should be not only normal, but expected.

    I know you're being sarcastic, and you're excused from being the target this screed. But some people actually hold that driving as a privilege means that the agencies can be permitted to make it difficult to maintain the privilege.

    That is wrong.

  • by cptdondo ( 59460 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @02:46PM (#38193148) Journal

    It might interest you that there used to be way fewer teachers, no administrators, no dept of education ... and the quality of education was way higher.

    Citation, please. Hard data, not more soundbites.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 28, 2011 @02:49PM (#38193178)

    Actually it is forced on you. Just try going through your entire life without ever having credit pulled on you. Want a phone? Credit check. Internet? Credit check. Car insurance? Credit check. Rent an apartment? Credit check.

    Or how about a job? Credit check.

    None of these involve providing credit, and all of them are part of a normal responsible American lifestyle. Yet you still get a credit check.

  • Re:SSNs? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PatDev ( 1344467 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @03:07PM (#38193362)
    I'm assuming this is sarcasm. If it is not, my apologies.

    But no, there is no possible way to lockdown a computer to prevent data from leaving it. You can mitigate by limiting the amount of data that can leave it, but you can't prevent data from coming off it (at least not while being used for its intended purpose at the DMV).

    Sure, you can install filtering software to DPI everything leaving the machine and uninstall all text editors and remove the ability to install additional software. But at some point, the operator has to read information off the screen, and that's the analog hole you've hit right there. Even if sufficient surveillance is employed to prevent employees writing SSNs down on paper, there is still the possibility of the employee just remembering them. Given that a 9-digit SSN doesn't really have 9 bits of entropy and names are generally easy to remember, I'm guessing an employee using mnemonics could still easily recall 3 identities per shift. At $200 or more per identity, an extra $600 per shift is enough of a payday to motivate someone to try.
  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Monday November 28, 2011 @04:02PM (#38193980) Homepage Journal

    If the manufacturer and/or seller of a gun is liable for what the new owner does with it,

    He isn't. Where are you getting this nonsense?

    or a bartender is liable for what a patron does after purchasing booze,

    He isn't liable selling booze to a sober person. Are you ten years old? It is definitely irresponsible to sell booze to someone who's drunk, especially if you know he's driving. In this case the bartender is responsibe, as he should be.

    or I get in trouble for selling you a class 4 laser and you do something dumb

    But you don't. Are you trolling, or are you really that ignorant?

    Thats how it works in private aviation, anytime anyone crashes for any reason, the vehicle manufacturer gets sued, because that's where the money is.

    Citation needed... and considering the earlier fantasies in the same comment, it needs to be a damned good citation.

  • by silverspell ( 1556765 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @04:28PM (#38194268)

    If you have NO credit history whatsoever, then yes, I think it's a fair bet that you're the kind of person who's too attached to his fantasies of perfect autonomy, and who uses words like "sheeple". Such a person is someone I'd rather not hire, if an equally (or more) competent candidate is available; they're generally tiresome, pedantic, and childish, and see themselves as enlightened figures in a world of fools.

    It's a serious hassle to do without credit in this society, and you have to have some serious ideological baggage to make a lifelong point of doing so. More to the point, credit represents a willingness to take on obligations to other people and fulfill them over the long term. Going into long-term debt and repaying it in a timely manner is a sign (not 100% reliable, but still a sign) good judgment, fiscal discipline, and personal integrity.

    If someone isn't willing to do that -- if they go to great lengths to retain the fantasy that they can give it all up at any time and head off into the wilderness, perfectly autonomous and beholden to no one -- then it seems to me that they probably haven't come to terms with adulthood.

  • by Kamiza Ikioi ( 893310 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @04:34PM (#38194332)

    That's a great system that the United States will never adopt. Between the tin foil hats and the Apocalypse believers, we're thoroughly terrified against any type of secure identity verification cards. Because, after all, it's a slippery slope to reading your brain, watching you have sex with your wife using satellite x-ray vision, and tattooing 666 on your forehead.

    So... "no need to understand how it works"? I see you've not encountered sheer stupidity in its raw, unbridled form. Welcome to the United States!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 28, 2011 @04:50PM (#38194504)

    Correction: We are rightfully concerned about being *compelled* to use such an identification scheme.

    I see you've not encountered sheer stupidity in its raw, unbridled form.

    No doubt there are some people who refuse to be a cog in the machine for stupid reasons. But many people have considered the consequences and decided they prefer to not have these so-called "smart IDs." Reasonable people can disagree, but it is certainly remarkable that your stance is basically "damn your preferences, damn your reasoning, you are stupid!"

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. - Paul Tillich, German theologian and historian