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Here's an instructive look at what can happen when the government compiles massive amounts of personal data from millions of citizens. In this case, it's the FBI's National Crime Information Center database, and it's being mined for much more than criminals.
The New York Police Department says one of its detectives was recently caught using the NCIC database to secretly obtain personal information about two other NYPD officers. Police officials have suggested that the man, who also hacked into several individuals’ e-mail accounts, was trying to figure out “who his ex-girlfriend, also a police officer, was chatting with.”

Another police officer, Gilbert Valle, was convicted in March for using the NCIC database to “help compile dossiers on women that listed their birthdates, addresses, heights and weights,” apparently as part of a “bizarre plot to kidnap, cook and cannibalize women.” Fortunately, the authorities stepped in before the women he had profiled were harmed.

The AP reports that “authorities have accused a Memphis police officer of using the NCIC database to leak information to a confidential informant about a watch dealer who the informant believed had stolen a Rolex; a reserve patrolman in Clarkston, Ga., of running names and license plates for marijuana dealers; a Montgomery County, Md., officer of running checks on cars belonging to a woman who later reported that the vehicles had been vandalized; and a Hartford, Conn., police sergeant of supplying database records to a woman who used them to harass her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend.”

We already know about the NSA analysts who got their jollies by listening in on military service members' intimate phone calls. It's human nature to be nosy. It's also unfortunately part of some humans' nature to be vindictive and/or venal. In this case, apparently none of the eavesdropping NSA analysts thoughts turned to blackmail. And, so far as we know, no public official has decided to target a political enemy. So far as we know. So far.

The NSA argues that only 22 people have access to any of the content in the masses of data they've collected, but as Timothy Lee argues in this article, as more and more data is collected that access will almost have to expand for the mass of information to be even remotely useful. And, of course, the NSA also would have argued that a mere contractor wouldn't have had access to the reams of information Edward Snowden had at his fingertips. But considering he did have that information, and that he's just a drop in the bucket among contractors—483,263 contractors with Top Secret clearances, or even one of the 582,524 with Confidential and Secret clearance—how can we possibly think our private information is safe in NSA's hands?

1:52 PM PT: Curious to find out what information the NSA might have collected about you? Good luck. They won't tell you. Please sign our petition President Obama to issue an executive order allowing American citizens to obtain their NSA files with a Freedom of Information Act request.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 12:25 PM PDT.

Also republished by The First and The Fourth and Daily Kos.

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