Government nosy parkers use passport database to spy on celebs

David sez, "From the nobody's suprised file:"
Government workers repeatedly snooped without authorization inside the electronic passport records of entertainers, athletes and other high-profile Americans, a State Department audit has found. One celebrity's records were breached 356 times by more than six dozen people...

When the scandal erupted earlier this year, State Department officials suggested that the department maintained a list of "flagged files" to ensure that records of high-profile individuals were not breached. But investigators found that only 38 people were on the watch list, and there was no system or specific methodology for putting them there.

The watch list has since been expanded to more than 1,000 people, including all members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, senior administration officials, and entertainers, media personalities and sports figures.

What's the easiest way to prevent your huge database of highly sensitive personal information from leaking? Don't generate huge databases of highly sensitive information in the first place. Link (Thanks, David!)


  1. Hilarious. A special list for special people. How about not breaching anybody’s records?

  2. Putting the data security issue aside, I think it’s perfectly believable that people would look someone up. It’s human nature. How many people type in some “risky” word into Google just to see what comes up? Why publish “People” magazine? Because there’s a market (and a desire) for it.

  3. It’s not just celebrities who get breached, it’s regular people too. You know, like the cute girl at the coffeehouse who wouldn’t give you the time of day. Or that bitch back in high school who rejected your advances. Or, you know, that girl that doesn’t know you yet, but would probably like you if you were, say, prescient about the places she liked to go.

  4. seriously though – who doesn’t do this? I work for a company that has a database of clients/customers and I’m always looking for new or interesting people. Celebs…past friends…etc.

  5. Ken,

    Sounds like the snooping you did was of your companies private database of names and addresses (and maybe credit info?) which you were allowed to access. “Snooping without authorization” is the story here.

    Granted, you wouldn’t likely get fired for looking up someones house on Google maps from the database you refer to accessing, but the database in question probably had some ~slightly~ more sensitive information than yours does (you know, like fingerprints, SSN’s, and a list of everywhere you’ve ever left the country for, at a minimum).

    I’d like to disagree that the oversight mechanism worked, insofar as ‘oversight’ implies actively watching and regulating, not just counting the holes in the fence once in a while and then wondering aloud if someone ought to do something about it. The audit system worked. That’s a distinction with a huge difference.

    – For an intentionally hyperbolic comparison – consider if you will that it was nuclear fuel rather than personal data which had been accessed by dozens of unauthorized people, and you might see the difference in the distinction.

    I wholly agree that people are insatiably curious, and that weak morals abound.

    either we have a right to some privacy from the gov’t, or we don’t.

  6. The Washington Post seemed most aggrieved that the snooping was done for salacious purposes. No where in the report did I see anything about snooping-for-hire (unlike what has happened with telephone records.) Does that mean that there was no snooping-for-hire? Or that the Washington Post wasn’t very thorough about investigating this? Or that the data is so dull that it isn’t interesting for people who pay?

    About the security-tag/watch list that had been underused, but is now being used to protect elected officials and other high mucky mucks. Do those high mucky mucks include CEOs? Can some less elevated person get their records put on the “watch list”?

    I think the proper response is to make the data public. Purge the social security numbers.

    Alternately, do the same thing that the Feds have done with our credit scores — give everyone one free look a year and charge them to correct the data. A way to raise revenue for the government that doesn’t bring up the dread word “Taxes”.

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