Okay, this is a little bit of a rant and a little bit of a public call to attention! Abusing the NCIC database results in drastically different consequences depending on whether the offending party is a public or private sector investigator. Last week as I was going through some posts in one of my Facebook groups, I came across the post listed below which pointed out the glaring difference:
What is the NCIC?
Before I go any further, I think that the public should have an understanding of what the National Crime Information Center, otherwise known as “The NCIC” is, so below is a brief explanation and some links for research. This is a huge database that has been in existence for forty eight years (since January of 1967), with billions and billions of records in it from stolen vehicle reports to criminal records, to stolen firearms to protection orders. The NCIC is restricted to Law Enforcement Personnel ONLY. The Law Enforcement Officers that have access to it have to get certified to use it through the Department of Justice. You can read more about the NCIC here and here.
Abusing the System
Hopefully you either already know, or just read and found how large this database is and how much personal information it contains. So what happened here is that a Albuquerque, New Mexico Police Officer accessed this database for personal reasons (to provide a family member an address for someone that had been granted an order of protection). This is very serious, as in this could have gotten this lady hurt or worse. So the Police Officer was caught doing this, and the Police Officer got suspended for forty hours without pay. I am sure that most of you are thinking that this is not anything to get too upset over, but I have a different perspective than you do. You see, I am a licensed Private Investigator, with access to a certain amount of proprietary data. I can tell you that this data that I have access to is well protected, it takes a tremendous amount of vetting to be granted access to it, and if there is ever an abuse of access to the data, the world ends for the private investigator and almost ends for the entire private investigation profession!
Typically when we see an abuse of access to data in the private investigation business, the private investigator immediately has his or her access revoked, sometimes the private investigator can be sued, and in some cases even criminally prosecuted. The government wants to hold senate subcommittee hearings on consumer privacy violations, there is always talk about shutting down the private investigation profession’s access to database records, and several politicians get on their high horses and trumpet the cause of eliminating the evil private investigation profession.
Evaluating the Double Standard
A few simple questions… Where is all of this activity when Law Enforcement abuse their access to sensitive data? Did this Police Officer get fired? Did anyone sue her? Did anyone even consider prosecuting her? Where are the consumer privacy hearings? Where are the politicians trumpeting their cause to protect the consumer’s privacy? Did this Police Officer get off easy because she is Law Enforcement, and do we private investigator’s have to bear the brunt of this one-sided non-sense, because we are NOT Law Enforcement? Where is the level playing field here?
Of course you may be able to understand now why I am just a little disappointed in the disparity between treatment of private investigators and Law Enforcement regarding data access abuses. What you may not know, that I personally know is that this incident mentioned above is not isolated. These types of abuses occur almost daily, and go undiscovered over ninety nine percent of the time. This is just another area in which the American public should demand transparency and accountability from their public servants.
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