If you remember, one of the most telling revelations about the NSA was that agents had used their powerful tools to stalk romantic interests. The only reason they were ever discovered is because the NSA offered amnesty to people who confessed (so we have no idea how else the system was abused). We have a similar story (albeit, on a much smaller scale) with the police department of the city of Fairfield.
As the CBS Sacramento station reports:
Court documents show that Fairfield Police Officers Stephen Ruiz and Jacob Glashoff used company time and equipment to search for women on internet dating sites.
The court documents allege another Fairfield officer reported the incidents to his superior back in June.
The reporting officer alleged that both Ruiz and Glashoff found women’s profiles had been browsing women on dating websites like Tinder, eHarmony, and Match.com while working at the investigations bureau office of the Fairfield Police Department.
Court documents allege the officers then used a police-issued computer to look up the women they found appealing in a confidential law enforcement database that connects to the DMV and state and federal records.
Court documents go on to say Sgt. Ruiz and Detective Glashoff would perform the searches and have conversations about the dating sites in front of other officers.
The Fairfield Police Department says it cannot comment on the ongoing investigation because of government code. Another law enforcement agency is in charge of the investigation, police say.
If the allegations are found true, the officers could face felony criminal charges.
Notice that the only reason these two officers were caught was because they openly talked about what they were doing. So as far as we know, assuming the police have a private moment with the computer, they could get away with the web-surfing and, more importantly, using the law enforcement data base for their own purposes. As far as we know there is no auditing process or any way to record how an officer uses the database to verify he is utilizing it for real police business. So the lesson here is that, when we give government employees powerful tools, there is a real temptation to use them as powerful toys. Why couldn’t anyone predict this would happen and put in protective measures to stop it? And what are the chances that we know about all the private abuses of the NSA spying tools?