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Cop Awarded $585K After ‘Dozens’ Of Police Officers Accessed Their DMV Data 500 Times

Slashdot reader Iwastheone shares a story from Ars Technica about what happened after Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources sent a privacy notification to a police officer in 2013:

An employee had abused his access to a government driver’s license database and snooped on thousands of people in the state, mostly women. Krekelberg learned that she was one of them. When Krekelberg asked for an audit of accesses to her Department of Motor Vehicles records, as allowed by Minnesota state law, she learned that her information — which would include things like her address, weight, height, and driver’s license pictures — had been viewed nearly 1,000 times since 2003, even though she was never under investigation by law enforcement… She later learned that over 500 of those lookups were conducted by dozens of other cops. Even more eerie, many officers had searched for her in the middle of the night.

Krekelberg eventually sued the city of Minneapolis, as well as two individual officers, for violating the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, which governs the disclosure of personal information collected by state Departments of Motor Vehicles. Earlier this week, she won. On Wednesday, a jury awarded Krekelberg $585,000, including $300,000 in punitive damages from the two defendants, who looked up Krekelberg’s information after she allegedly rejected their romantic advances, according to court documents…

More lawmakers have started advocating for data privacy regulations at the state and federal level, but those conversations have mostly focused on reining in big tech companies, rather than information that public employees can access.

Minneapolis’s city attorney responded that the police department has changed its policies — which had previously encouraged officers learning how to use the database to “go back to work and look up some of [their] friends and family members.”

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