Tuesday, October 8, 2013

First class action settlement in Minnesota data abuse

A week after a judge threw out a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of people whose private data was abused by a state official, an insurance trust has agreed to pay out $2 millionthe largest settlement in Minnesota to dateon behalf of about 3,000 people who had their private data accessed by a Rock County child support worker. The Star-Tribune reports that the settlement must be approved by a federal judge. In the wake of the decision, it's unclear what impact the previous ruling will have on the many outstanding cases that have been filed or are anticipated, including other class action suits.

Friday, September 27, 2013

One step back

A federal district court decision announced last week is a setback for individuals who wish to hold government accountable for misuse of their private data. U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen's decision absolves the State of Minnesota of liability for the actions of John Hunt who allegedly abused the private data of more than 5,000 people while a manager for the state's Department of Natural Resources.

The Strib quotes St. Paul City Attorney Sara Grewing, who can generally be counted on to be delighted with decisions that favor the interests of government over those of citizens, as being "extremely pleased" with the ruling. Effectively, the decision suggests that governmental units won't

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The end of the beginning

It may be safe to say that Minnesota's experience with cops abusing private data entered a new phase over the past week. While many private citizens along with a continuing parade of public figures such as TV news anchors have filed lawsuits, there wasn't an indication that anybody in a position to do anything about the problem really cared. That changed when a group of lawmakers including Minnesota House member Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa started a lawsuit last week.

I'm thinking that when you start pissing off the people who make that laws that govern your existence, you may have reached the point when something actually gets started to address stopping the abuse and perhaps even creating consequences for those who engage in it. As Winston Churchill is quoted as having once said, "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Friday, August 23, 2013

Star-Tribune says data abuse lawsuits poised to "swamp" Minnesota cities

The Star-Tribune provided a Sunday front page summary of the 18 lawsuits that have been filed to date against Minnesota jurisdictions over illegal access of driver's license data by police and other public officials. According to the story, the volume of suits has reached volume that's causing city officials to challenge courts about whether such misuse is actionable. Dozens of additional lawsuits are expected, and a federal judge has declined a request to dismiss a suit based on a presumed lack of harm to the plainiff. So it appears so far that violators will be held responsible for their actions. Or at least the taxpayers who have to pay for the violations will be...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dayton police chief charged with data abuse against fellow town official

The police chief of the city of Dayton Dick Pietrzak, a former Minneapolis cop, has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of abusing private data for looking at records for the community's former city administrator, according to the Star-Tribune. The city administrator has since been fired before the end of her term by the Dayton City Council. I'm not a lawyer, but if I were her, I'd be considering a retaliation lawsuit myself. Dayton taxpayers, hold on to your wallets. This can't end well.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Woman from KSTP-TV claims data abuse by more than 100 cops

According to the Star-Tribune, KSTP-TV investigative producer Beth McDonough has filed suit in federal court claiming that more than 170 law enforcement employees from more than 40 agencies have illegally viewed her private driver's license data more than 500 times in total. Further, she claims that she was warned about the abuse by Minnesota's public safety commissioner Mona Dohman years ago when Dohman served as police chief for the city of Maple Grove and heard cops discussing private information about her among themselves.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Even police union lawyer not immune from data abuse

If you've been following the story of cops abusing driver's license data, you might not be surprised about whose data they have been willing to abuse given that past reports have included fellow cops, supervisors, and private investigators. Even so, this week's allegations by a former lawyer serving a police union demonstrates that virtually no one has been off-limits from this illegal behavior.

According to Twin Cities.com, Brooke Bass who spent six years defending the interests of law enforcement officers for the state's largest police union had her private data accessed more than 700 times by more than 100 entities, primarily law enforcement agencies, across Minnesota. While Bass has not yet filed lawsuits, she has made claims to various agencies. Under state and federal statutes, she is believed to be entitled to damages ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 per violation, which means she could ultimately be the largest claimant to date in this matter.

When will violators be held legally and financially liable for this behavior rather than making taxpayers bear the burden? If even their own lawyer wasn't safe, who is?