Editorial missed the mark on snooping cases

  • Article by: MARSHALL H. TANICK
  • Updated: September 28, 2013 - 2:11 PM

The Editorial Board’s endorsement of a recent federal court ruling in Minnesota dismissing a class-action suit on behalf of about 5,000 Minnesotans, mostly women, whose driver’s licenses and motor vehicle data were illegally looked up by an official of the Department of Natural Resources took naiveté to new heights (“A welcome ruling in data snooping case,” Sept. 26).

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goferfanzSep. 27, 13 9:02 PM

Great rebuttal. Yes, let's limit plaintiffs to only suing the priest for damages, NOT the big wallet of the Catholic church. Or only employees of big corporations, not the corporation. Sounds laughable, doesn't it? Yet, that was an editorial position defending the state. It is obvious that making the employer liable quickly makes "snooping" an instant, firing offense. Yet, our govt employees live in a world where they are essentially immune to being fired. Any wonder why our government is so intrusive at both the state and federal level?

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pumiceSep. 28, 13 7:47 AM

Re: "[G]ovt employees live in a world where they are essentially immune to being fired." The DNR fired John Hunt on Jan. 11 and, according to the local FOX news outlet, has been "charged with six counts of unauthorized computer and data access, as well as public employee misconduct....If found guilty, Hunt could be forced to pay $2,500 for each record he illegally viewed." So much for immunity, goferfanz.

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goferfanzSep. 28, 13 8:34 AM

Well, pumice, give us the data on---> the total number of state workers who have entered data files without reason. Then, list all of the ones who have been terminated. Is it 1%? .1%. Probably about .01%, isnt it? Again, the liberal mindset, so determined to defend ongoing govt misdeeds, always looks for the needle in the haystack. Again, Fairview, Allina, etc have zero tolerance for entering medical charts, and dozens of its employees are terminated annually for offenses. Again, I qualified my "immunity" statement with "essentially," because liberals are so desperate in the Snowden era to defend the status quo .....they seem to have lost all rationality. Again, I look forward to the ratio of state employees terminated for these breaches.......

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alansonSep. 28, 13 9:01 AM

Since nobody else has read the court decision, of course, the lawyer feels free to propound a legal opinion that seems to be contrary to what the court ruled. Which was that the statute in question explicitly exempted the state and its managers as long as they did not specifically authorize the activity of their underlings. The court also implied that the people who actually snooped would be made liable by the statute. So there is a strong personal incentive still for state employees to curb their activities. But it's hard to lament the fact that there will be no golden payday for the plaintiffs here at the expense of state taxpayers.

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freedubaySep. 28, 13 9:16 AM

Of coarse Attorney Tanick would think that holding the government employee who snoops responsible and liable for damages. He would have to sue each employee separately for their, mostly, one time look up which would cost the offender $2,5000. Somewhat affordable. Much more cost effective to sue the state or department for 100`s of thousands where he is able to collect a large fee. If each employee is held responsible the number of incidents would drop. Now they hind behind the states protection.

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pumiceSep. 28, 1310:23 AM

Re: "the total number of state workers who have entered data files without reason." This article is about John Hunt, goferfanz, so citing information about John Hunt hardly qualifies as "looking for a needle in a haystack." Eric Roper's recent STrib article on the topic was much more inclusive and answers some of your questions: "The extent of the misuse is laid out in a list generated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. The punishment is left up to local jurisdictions, since the department says it has no power to mandate discipline beyond revoking access.... Many cases involved workers querying friends and family, sometimes at their request, [to look up friends' addresses for sending cards, pictures of high school classmates and occasionally a photograph of a defendant or lawyer to find them in the courtroom] but others were less innocuous.... 25 employees [of Hennepin County's 4th Judicial District were disciplined] for misusing DVS data -- 10 of them were suspended without pay; one was fired but then was allowed to resign instead.... 'It's the kind of thing that was enough widespread that we had to re-educate the entire employment force here, and we did that,' said [Mark] Thompson, adding that they have found no problems since the discipline.... Bruce Gordon, a spokesman for the [D]epartment [of Public Safety], said his agency is developing a method of performing randomized audits [to replace the present system of monthly audits of top 50 users]."

As to your assertion that liberals are "desperate in the Snowden era to defend the status quo", Snowden worked for a private contractor--Booz Allen Hamilton. Speaking on behalf of all liberals, I reiterate our concern over the PATRIOT Act, over allowing private entities (Roper mentions car dealers) to have access to government databases, and over the concept of a "Secrets Food Chain". We also heartily endorse Fairview, Allina, et al's zero tolerance policy for illegitimately accessing medical charts. (Isn't that policy due to the federal HIPAA Law?)

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goferfanzSep. 28, 1311:57 AM

No, pumice, your first post clearly intended that govt employees were subject to fierce punishment, which from Lois Lerner to the state debacle is essentially a false premise. Despite the length of your second post, I think you confirm one firing, no wait, even that was a "resignation." For likely tens of thousands of data intrusions (1.350 for one citizen, alone).... Again, at the large medical companies, there is zero tolerance for even "innocuous" intrusions, aka = even looking up a friend's phone number IS subject to immediate termination. Why? Because most of the guilty claim some "innocent reason" for being there, but most of them are lying, aren't they? Liberals talk the talk, but Obama/Dayton era intrusions arent the big deal for libs that they were under W/Pawlenty. Fact.

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pumiceSep. 28, 1312:33 PM

Re: "No, pumice, your first post clearly intended that govt employees were subject to fierce punishment." I regret to inform you, goferfanz, that you are misinterpreting the intent of my first post. You wrote, "govt employees live in a world where they are essentially immune to being fired." I googled John Hunt and found that he had been fired for violating federal and state law. I cited Eric Roper's article which reported other kinds of discipline for lesser infractions--ranging from denying access to suspension without pay--and steps taken by jurisdictions and departments to correct the problem.

You respond by elaborating on the certainty that large medical companies fire employees if they access a friend's medical record to look up a his/her phone number. Again, is that policy due to the federal HIPAA Law?

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jds275Sep. 28, 13 3:17 PM

Imagine that, someone who will make millions off these lawsuits is cying foul. Boohoo. If its nothing more than looking at a photo (PUBLIC INFORMATION), there should be NO money awarded. You are all just looking for a cash cow. Ssd state of our country.

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goferfanzSep. 28, 13 9:13 PM

"""Again, is that policy due to the federal HIPAA Law?"""..........Obviously not, since it doesnt seem to impact the govt agencies. It IS due the massive risks faced by private companies for potential civil court actions. Again, since you were silent, we can agree on 0 (zero) govt firings of wayward employees, right?

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