According to reporting by Sadie Gurman and Eric Tucker of the Associated Press, members of law enforcement around the nation are abusing their access to databases to gain information about people who are not the subject of official investigations. The cases include some officers gratifying their idle curiosity, while others were seeking revenge, and a few engaged in stalking, harassment, or tampering with records.
In one example, Alexis Dekany, an Ohio woman was the victim of an Akron police officer, her one-time boyfriend, who is now serving time for stalking her. In her words, the information available to a cop is “personal. It’s your address. It’s all your information, it’s your Social Security number, it’s everything about you.” Presumably, people dating would know each other’s addresses, though for someone who is being stalked, moving is often necessary. But the law requires most people to inform the police of their new addresses – within ten days in the case of vehicle registration in Ohio, for example. And when a person is legally obliged to tell the very people who employ the bad officers who are committing the abuse, what freedom is left?
How frequent are these violations of the privacy of Americans? The answer is that no one knows. No agency of the government at any level keeps track of such things, but the reporting of the AP has found hundreds of cases.
The situation is worse, though, than just the police snooping on us. Because while the Charybdis of government is sucking data from Americans through the force of law, the Scylla of big business is quietly catching whatever packets of information flow through our computers. Whether we’re talking about data brokers who collect and then sell every fact they can acquire about us or Google’s breaking of their motto “don’t be evil” by rigging Safari browsers to track users for the purpose of personalizing ads, it’s clear that government and big business are in competition to see who can obtain and use more information about us.
Some will say that as long as we’re not doing anything wrong, we have no reason to be concerned. Others will call me paranoid, but as a gun owner with a carry license, I’m used to that accusation. The argument that companies make is that they need these data to make money. So far, they’ve done a poor job of figuring out who I am, given the goods and services they try to sell me, but it’s thin comfort to think that my privacy depends on businesses having not yet dug deep enough into my life.
And we’re not done yet. It’s not just government and business. Even the most recognized organization defending gun rights is in the data game. Have you taken a class from an NRA-certified instructor? Your name may have been sent in to the group. Ever given your name when attending a gun show? Same thing. What is being done with this information? Andrew Arulanandam, speaking on behalf of the NRA, said, “That’s not any of your business.”
Presuming that privacy is something that we all value, what do we do? Supporters of gun rights get accused of caring only about the Second Amendment. That’s an impression that we have to work to change. Having guns is only one kind of defense, and it strikes me as wise, both in terms of strategy and tactics, to have multiple types and layers in our security plans. We have an opening with people who care about rights such as those guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment, thanks to Edward Snowden and others. Given the hacking of corporations lately, we also can connect with people who recognize the danger posed by data collection in big business. Working together, all of us can restore the legal and practical protections of all rights. Or we can fall one by one.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.