Policemen Abuse Driver's License Database

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Policemen Abuse Driver's License Database
Short Title Policemen Abuse Driver's License Database for Pic of Female Colleague
Location Minnesota
Date 2012

Taxonomy Disclosure, Insecurity, Secondary Use
Information Identifying, Physical Characteristics
Threat Actors City of Minneapolis, City of St.Paul, Law Enforcement

Individuals
Affected Female police officer
High Risk Groups Females, Driver
Secondary Consequences Anxiety

Policemen in Minneapolis and St.Paul were abusing access to the driver's license database to look up their female colleagues.

Description

A former female police officer with the St. Paul Police Department found out that over the course of nearly four years there were 24 police officers in Minneapolis who accessed her record 133 times, and 42 officers in St. Paul who looked her up 175 times. A female officer in St. Paul looked up her record 30 times over the course of two years.

She found that out after some incidents with former colleagues over the years, which prompted her to contact the state's Department of Public Safety in August 2011 asking if it was possible to restrict access to her driver's license file. After telling someone in that department that she'd once heard that fellow officers had been looking up her file, a worker in the office investigated and found that her record had been accessed by cops repeatedly across the state going back to 2007. This is an example of Insecurity of the driver's license database.

Multiple police officers were taking advantage of Minnesota's driver’s license database to look her up. She discovered that 104 officers in 18 different agencies across the state had accessed her driver’s license record 425 times. Given the fact that it is so easy for the police officers to access the database, it can be interpreted as Disclosure.

In the lawsuits she filed, she alleged that the officers violated, among other things, the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act.

In 2012 the media reported she would receive more than $1 million in compensation. The Minneapolis City Council has agreed to pay her $392,000, on top of a $280,000 settlement she reached with several other cities whose cops broke the law by accessing her record for non-work reasons.Secondary Use The database is only supposed to be used for police work. She would also receive $385,000 from the city of St. Paul, Minnesota, for a total of $1,057,000 that taxpayers had to pay for the wrongdoing of the policemen.

It's one of the largest private data breaches by law enforcement in history, according to the media.

Another similar case happened in 2019. Another female police officer in St. Paul said that 58 officers from the Minneapolis Police Department, most of them men, had broken a federal privacy law and inflicted emotional distress on her by searching for her data 74 times without a lawful purpose. The information included her photograph, address, age, height, and weight. The jury awarded her $585,000.

Risk Statistics

Laws and Regulations

Driver's Privacy Protection Act of 1994

Sources

https://www.wired.com/2012/02/cop-database-abuse/
https://www.wired.com/2012/11/payout-for-cop-database-abuse/
https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/06/20/us-police-found-violate-fellow-officers-privacy