Government Agencies, Foreign Companies Collide Over Online Records Issue
We searched the Internet to gather
testimony and motives from those in favor and those against exporting our most valuable asset, the
Public Records of the American people. Not surprisingly taxpayers fall on the side of those who
want the records kept at the Courthouse where they were filed.
for yourself the motivation of those who want the records published on the
On one side, data brokers, foreign data miners,
terrorists, stalkers, identity thieves, some journalists and some county
officials claim they have a right to see your information sold in bulk and
broadcast to the world . On the other side, many law enforcement agencies,
judges, security experts, legislators, journalists and crime victims are
speaking up to warn citizens and government officials to keep it at home.
Who Wants to Broadcast Your
Who Wants to Keep It At The
Social Security #s? "That's not a
private piece of information."
Dianne Wilson, Fort
Bend County Clerk, Texas.
emailed comments, Wilson rejected the United States CCJ/COSCA
Guidelines for Public Access to Court Records
"There is no good reason
why the information should be public for walk in customer but be off
limits to web- based customers"
Speaking for "our
state standards committee on
judicial Information reviewed your proposed policy. We agreed to an equal
access for all customers." Thus rejecting Sec 4.50 which might have
prevented her from publishing social security numbers, financial and
medical information of her constituents to the World Wide Web.
In an interview with B.J. Pollack,
Fort Bend Herald, Wilson said she writes "most of the legislation
for county clerks in Texas."
Wilson said medical data is not made
public through her office, and when told about medical information
belonging to one of her own family members, found on the county clerk's Web site, she
had no response.
Wilson said she has no apologies for her decision to make the records
available via the World Wide Web.
Anyone who doesn't agree with her bulk sale or
electronic posting of Public Records that contain private information,
Wilson said, is "missing the point."
Wilson said records she has already sold in bulk form are "out of my
control. Once I sell it to the public, it's in the public domain."
In an email to News for Public Officials concerning her recent bulk
sale of twenty million county records for "about $2000", she
wrote, "I guess we gain in one area and lose in others". The loss
to the county might be calculated at twenty million dollars. Wilson
didn't say how the taxpayers might have "gained" from this or any of the
bulk sales she told the Fort Bend Herald she makes every day.
"The Internet is a fantastic tool to get information to the public,"
she insisted. The terrorists, stalkers, identity thieves and foreign
agents quoted in this column seem to agree. Some of them may be her
For more information on the
Texas County Clerk who writes Texas legislation while publishing the
sensitive information of her constituents in 20 million documents see:
people shall be secure in their persons, houses, papers and possessions,
from all unreasonable seizures or searches.”
Texas Constitution, 1835
Making Public Records easily
accessible to the public is one thing; making records that include
available to the world without any forethought is an
outrage. Bob Haenel, Fort Bend
From the cop's point of view, that's bad news and a
lot more work for us," added
Ricky Campbell, Houston Police Department.
Campbell is with HPD's financial crimes unit and knows the potential for
problems with ID theft.
Counties could be ID theft source
"We don't need that
happening out here, and she can stop it, "
Precinct 1, Place 2 Justice of the Peace Gary Geick, Fort Bent County,
"As custodian of
these records for those citizens, she has betrayed them". Bob
Haenel, Fort Bend Herald
there is a vast difference between the Public Records that might be found
after a diligent search of courthouse files, county archives, and local
police stations throughout the country and a computerized summary located
in a single clearinghouse of information.”
U.S. Supreme Court
"Officers may wish to work with local officials to review the security
implications of infrastructure content posted on websites and to urge the
removal of any information from public access which could be potentially
"infrastructure-related data is
being accessed through the Internet from sites around the world." National Infrastructure Protection Center
"If someone wants to steal your identity, the thief usually
needs only four pieces of information. Your full name. Your address. Your
date of birth. And your Social Security number. Who is the biggest
collector of this information? Why, the government, of course."
A good idea could lead to identity theft ,
Fort Worth Star Telegram.
"We believe there is no legitimate reason for someone to be trafficking in
credit card and other personal financial data.“ This includes credit card
and social security numbers, personal financial information or customer
Attorney General Greg Abbott
information is easy to sell because there are no laws against selling it.
If we're serious about making it harder to sell, we need to make it
illegal to sell. It really is that simple."
Schneier, internationally renowned security technologist in interview with
Government Technology Magazine
“The most effective method for
protecting against such attacks is also the simplest -- disconnect
databases containing sensitive information from the Internet. Systems like
that should not have Internet access, period”. Bryan Sartin, director
of technology for Ubizen, a unit of Cybertrust Inc. of Herndon, Va.
Dozier, a lawyer at Dozier
Internet Law PC in Glen Allen, says deed documents include all the
information a criminal would need to steal someone’s identity.
Putting deeds online is "a horribly risky approach," Dozier said. "It
certainly is the antithesis of consumer protection."
Public Records are a tool criminals use, too, — not just people who
would want to do financial harm, but ex-spouses and lovers. Lee County Sheriff's Office spokesman Angelo Vaughn
the Texas Attorney General, an identity thief may use others' information
to obtain new credit cards, open checking accounts, get a bogus driver's
license or Social Security card, make long distance calls, apply for a job
or make purchases using others' bank account or credit card.
Arthur News -
thieves steal lives
This online records "scheme"
has to be repealed
Virginia Watchdog -
"Using public sources openly and without resorting to
illegal means, it is possible to gather at least 80 percent of all
information required about the enemy."
Al Qaeda Training Manual recovered in Afghanistan
Terrorists use downloaded
information from American "public" record to:
soft targets such as
transportation facilities, nuclear power plants, public buildings,
airports, and ports, and even about counterterrorism measures.
School plans and bus routes
Find personal information and
identifiers of government officials, U.S. citizens and their
Personal identifiers used to
assume the identities of American Citizens
Launder money, set up sleeper cells, or
support smuggling operations in residential communities anywhere in the
state. . . .
Al Queda hackers have
hi-jacked "secure" government Web sites to broadcast broadcast
propaganda including the beheadings of American citizens.
"Why in the world have we been so
stupid as a country to have all this information in the public domain?
Does that openness still make sense? It sure as hell doesn't to me."
M. Derrick Jr., chairman of the board of Pepco Holdings Inc., which
provides power to 1.8 million customers.
"the hijackers of 9/11
used the Internet, and "used it well." Ronald Dick, assistant director
of the FBI and head of the United States National Infrastructure
Protection Center (NIPC), told reporters that
"Al-Qa'ida members may be using
municipal and state websites in the U. S. to obtain information on local
energy infrastructures, water reservoirs, dams, highly-enriched uranium
storage sites, nuclear and gas facilities, and emergency fire and rescue
U. S. Department of Transportation's Office of Intelligence and Security
"Terrorists, for instance, can
learn from the Internet a wide variety of details about targets such as
transportation facilities, nuclear power plants, public buildings,
airports, and ports, and even about counterterrorism measures."
Institute of Peace Special Report # 116
Dan Verton, in his book Black
Ice: The Invisible Threat of Cyberterrorism (2003), explains that "al-Qaeda
cells now operate with the assistance of large databases containing
details of potential targets in the U.S."
enforcement authorities notified school districts in six states last month
that a computer disc found in Iraq contained photos, floor plans and other
information about their schools, two U.S. officials said Thursday."
disc found in Iraq contained U.S. school plans
"The bandwidth-intensive Paul
Johnson beheading video is first uploaded for display on al
Qaeda-sympathetic sites worldwide on the hijacked server of a legitimate
California geographic information company".
Who Owns This Place? Al Qaeda’s war rages online
"I do not believe you have a
right to be anonymous in a free society, "
ChoicePoint CEO Derek Smith.
"With ChoicePoint Online's
powerful search capabilities, you can easily search more than 14 billion
records on individuals and businesses."
ChoicePoint Web Site.
access a variety of different Public Records sources from our data
partners. . . courthouses, county and other government offices. No one
is notified that you are using the Intelius services, including the person
you are searching for." Intelus.com
Instant Nationwide Public Records.
quickly accesses public information and displays what is available in the
personal information in the U.S. is a
multibillion-dollar-a-year industry. We're responsible enough to handle
this powerful tool, but we don't think everyone else is."
"I'm going to have to watch my back
for the rest of my life,"
Chapman, victim upon learning her name, address, and social security
number had been inappropriately viewed in the ChoicePoint spill.
weirdly insidious about the many-tentacled ChoicePoint. Last April,
while the company's response to the data breach was being investigated by
California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, it won a contract worth $845,500 to
design a databank for California law enforcement agencies from...Atty.
Gen. Bill Lockyer.
"My opinion is that the potential negative aspects of this far outweigh
any benefit. I'm not OK with it at all, and I think people need to tell
their members of Congress." Stuart J. Dunnings III, Ingham County
the sites have disclaimers to cover any legal action against them.
they get their data from public record
,they don't claim responsibility for any loss or damages, and they say the
information is not guaranteed correct.
Your Personal Information Available Online
"Before, few people had really known
about all of the information that ChoicePoint and its brethren amass, from
driving records and property deeds to lists of relatives and job
history for nearly every adult in the United States".
Onliine - The Resource for Security Executives.
2005 a Nigerian identity theft ring used fifty bogus Choicepoint accounts
to steal the identities of at least a half million Americans.
“Access the most complete of
its type available anywhere on the net. It contains information on
nearly 200 million people in the US.
The content has been developed from information contained in phone
directories, DMV records, voter registrations, and many other public
Public-Record-Searches.com , Bangalore, India
process outsourcing (BPO) industry —has in the last one year become a
critical factor for the 5,000-odd BPOs whose collective revenue is
estimated at $ 5.8 billion annually.
Business Standard, New Delhi India
"As one of the
largest data entry and data conversion organizations in India, we process
1 million documents on a monthly basis. We currently perform 25,000
searches a month in 400 (U.S.) counties. Our Unique Selling Point is a
local office in USA (Maryland) and Offshore hub in India, Philippines and
Infinity International Processing,
"It is hard to conceive of a broader invasion of privacy than freely
disseminating the information to the entire world and rendering it
instantaneously accessible to all."
H. Alsdorf, KING COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT, Washington.
Indian workers at Ohio-based Heartland Information Services, threatened to
release confidential medical records online unless they received a cash
payment from the company. In 2003, a
Pakistani medical transcriber, subcontracting with the University of
California at San Francisco (UCSF) medical center, threatened to do the
same." United States Rep. Edward J. Markey.
information included names, addresses, telephone numbers, birth details,
Medicare numbers, driver's license numbers, ATM card numbers and even
passport information. "Personal details up for grabs in India
an internet site to do that, and to my surprize (sp) everything else under the
Sun. Most importantly: her current employment. It's accually obsene (sp) what
you can find out about a person on the internet.
last entry on his web site before he used this information to find and
murder Amy Boyer. "
Amy was by no means the first person to be stalked on the Internet.
A recent report from the US Attorney General's Office noted that "there
may be potentially tens or even hundreds of thousands of victims of recent
cyberstalking incidents in the United States." None, though, touched the
kind of nerve, or sparked the kind of controversy, that the Amy Boyer case
has.Murder.com The Boston
But even if all
legitimate information brokers were to appropriately and effectively
secure the data in their electronic warehouses, the flow of information
would continue. Criminals and others will just access, and in many
cases continue to access, databases from the government and private sector
to find the personal information they need for their crimes.
Testimony of Robert Douglas CEO, PrivacyToday.com Before the
United State Senate Committee on the Judiciary
INVASION OF PRIVACY – Part 1 World Net Daily
In digital age, information can be a matter of life and death
was being tracked. The beautiful young girl was soon to graduate from
college. Not yet 21 . . Whether you realize it or not, you are being
tracked, just as Amy Boyer was, and it can cost you time, money, freedom –
even your life.
. . . Two days after her death made the news in New England, the thieves,
who had gotten her Social Security number, were able to assume her
identity. They managed to spend $5,000 by using checks in her name.
"We got the
information we needed from the County Site" Unidentified identity theft
suspects, Hamilton County Ohio.
Lee County Sheriff's Office spokesman Angelo Vaughn said "the Internet is
playing an increasing role in identity theft cases"
Chad Hatten, 35, Houston, Texas,
pled guilty to belonging to the Shadowcrew, an international
criminal organization with numerous members that promoted and facilitated
a wide variety of criminal activities and maintained a Web Site where
members could traffic in stolen identities.
"In many cases, criminals in prison are teaching one another how to use
the Internet, manipulate personal data and create counterfeit checks and
driver's licenses, law enforcement experts said. Prison rehabilitation
programs that emphasize computers are further reinforcing their skills,
Detective Jim Hudson of the Placer County Sheriff's Department.
"Want drive fast cars?" asks an
advertisement, in broken English, atop the Web site iaaca.com. "Want live
in premium hotels? Want own beautiful girls? It's possible with dumps from
Zo0mer." A "dump," in the blunt vernacular of a relentlessly flourishing
online black market"
NY Times Article
Security cards run about $20, green cards about $70 and a California
driver's license between $60 and $250. The price jumps up for
higher-quality documents, such as IDs with magnetic strips containing real
information - often from victims of identity theft."
Fake ID Trade Makes a Name for Itself
"She could get a little information out of the mail and use
search engines to get the rest she needed," Detective Fleming said.
Denton police allege elaborate ID theft, fraud scam
County Rife with
Identity Theft Reconsiders Online Records
"In 1997, Arizona’s Maricopa
County (which includes Phoenix) became the first government entity in the
nation to post Public Records online.
has come back to bite the county in a most unpleasant way: Maricopa now
claims the highest rate of identity theft in the nation, and local IT
officials say the two statistics are inextricably linked".
"We have had a number of cases
where police have told me the bad guys got the information used to steal
identities from my Web site." Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Greg
Sen. Charles J.
Fuschillo Jr., who heads the Senate Consumer Protection Committee and has
authored legislation to protect consumers from identity theft, called on
the county clerk's office Wednesday to remove the information from the
Thomas Spota expressed dismay over the material being made public. "It's
not only disheartening, it's crazy,"
don’t get ten million identity theft victims and fifty-plus billion
dollars in losses to identity theft related financial fraud from dumpster
Testimony of Robert Douglas
CEO, PrivacyToday.com Before the United State Senate Committee on the
Judiciary Hearing on Securing Electronic Personal Data: Striking a Balance
Between Privacy and Commercial and Governmental Use.
now organized on the Internet. Operating in the anonymity of cyberspace,
the Shadowcrew and Web mobs like it threaten the trust companies have
spent years trying to build with customers, online"
Shadowcrew: Web Mobs
Pennsylvania and around the nation, people who have never been in trouble
with the law end up with criminal records after identity thieves use their
personal information when they are arrested".
Internet has dramatically altered the potential occurrence and impact of
identity theft. First,the Internet provides access to identifying
information through both illicit and legal means. The global publication
of identifying details that previously were available only to a select few
increases the potential for misuse of that information"
"The Internet is making more and more data available to the nasty
folks," said Matt Bishop, a
professor of computer science at the University of California, Davis.
" Investigators checked Utah state records and found that approximately
1,800 social security numbers, belonging to children under of 13, may have
General Press Release
are still making money selling drugs, you are an informant or about to be
busted. Mortgage fraud is the thing to do now," said convicted
identity thief Christopher Scott in a prison interview.
Drug-dealing gangs, including Chicago's Black Disciples, have adopted the
financial crime, the Tribune found. Mortgage swindling helped that gang
solidify its control over street corners, launder money and gain safe
houses to launch operations.
Reputed gang leader Marvel Thompson controlled real estate as well as
drugs. What was his secret weapon? Mortgage fraud.
Over the course of a decade, Thompson used straw buyers, sham sales and
phony identities to secure more than $1 million in mortgage loans that
went unpaid, records and interviews show.
Scams build gang empire
"It's just so easy," he said in a tone
more matter-of-fact than boastful. "I could have made a million dollars a
Ruining my credit was easy, thief says
'No way I knew that was a police officer'"
Heard said he thought he was being robbed when he fired at Officer Henry
"Hank" Nava Jr. "believed the officer walking into the bedroom Monday was
a robber wanting to steal identity theft programs and information that I
had". . . computer
that would incriminate him in attempted identity theft crimes"
"It's easier to rob a man of $30,000 with his Social Security number
than put a gun in his face," said Jeff Shelton, assistant agent in
charge for the Oklahoma City field office of the Secret Service.
Shelton said loosely knit groups of meth users and cooks gather regularly
to swap recipes and new ways to profit from victims' personal information.
Most have become extremely computer proficient
"Every day we see identity theft as a method to buy drugs." Mark
Woodward, Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control
Shelton said about half of all crimes worked by his identity theft task
force have a link to drugs. Meth use and identity theft are a good match,
he said. The Oklahoman
"There's very low risk with identity theft compared with robbing a bank,"
Hudson said. "You don't have to use a gun and you don't risk a long prison
"There's quite a correlation between I.D. theft and meth makers,"
Assistant District Attorney Martha McMurry said. "It's one of the ways
meth makers get money for materials. It really lowers your overhead if
you're not actually paying for the materials." Addicts funding habit
with white-collar crime
Police have said that Officer Nava
was shot while trying to gather information on Mr. Heard, who was
suspected of participating in an identity-theft ring.
The Dallas Morning News
"This criminal organization represents one of the
largest and most sophisticated document fraud rings ever uncovered -- so
much so that it
set up franchises in most major U.S. cities and counterfeited dozens
of types of documents," said Marcy Forman, who heads investigations
can be provided to terrorists and other criminals, posing a major homeland
security vulnerability," Marcy Forman, who heads investigations for ICE.