Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Boston Police Snoop at Celebs - Who's Next?

So Boston police troll the Criminal Record Information system to find personal information about local movie stars and sports heroes. We know that from a state audit released on May 6, 2009. Today, ACLU Massachusetts director Carol Rose and Michael German correctly point out that misuse of law enforcement databases doesn't stop with the stars. "Unmonitored access to poorly regulated databases gives power to local law enforcement to pry into and share information about innocent people and potential criminals alike," said Rose.

In an environment of lax oversight, police and staffers at the Commonwealth Fusion Center and Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC) have little incentive to protect our privacy. Information sharing systems developed since 9/11 increase the potential for government snooping into peoples' personal affairs. In 2008, Massachusetts launched the State Wide Information Sharing System (SWISS) to reach out, seamlessly collect, and store incident information from its 351 cities and towns in a centralized data warehouse. Such "incident information" is not restricted to criminal data. When fused with personal data from private databases used by the fusion center, such as Choicepoint, the potential for government abuse becomes widespread.

Local civil liberties advocates, together with a state lawmaker from Worcester, are proposing oversight legislation which would ensure greater checks on law enforcement power.