My interview with Citizen For Justice pertaining to the broadcast of personal information by the law enforcement agencies in the Springfield/Greene County, MO area. The broadcasts have continued despite my complaints advising these agencies of the danger they present.
Last month I delivered complaints to the Springfield Police Department, Greene County Sheriff’s Department, and Springfield-Greene County 911 Emergency Communications, alerting those agencies that they were violating the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act by broadcasting social security numbers over public dispatch channels.
I believed that when an officer or deputy contacted a citizen who lacked an identification card, they would request that they provide their name, social security number, and date of birth. That information would then be read to a dispatcher over a channel available to anyone in the world with a police scanner app. With that, an identity thief could ruin a person’s credit through a variety of methods.
I wanted to believe my complaint would encourage them to change this dangerous practice, but I was skeptical that these agencies would take heed of his warnings. I continued to listen to my police scanner cell phone app for the broadcasts and my suspicions were confirmed.
Two days after the complaints were delivered to each agency, I recorded multiple officers reading SSN’s over the same unencrypted channels on which I had previously recorded the leaks. The information breaches didn’t stop there. Over the course of the next several weeks, the total number of post-notification social security leaks I was able to record would climb to 15.
I’ve been busy and have not been able to dedicate large amounts of time to monitoring these channels, but to uncover 15 instances in my limited time listening to the channels indicates to me there is a much larger issue at hand.
I have heard nothing back from any of the agencies I filed complaints against, although the Missouri Attorney General responded and said they were investigating the matter. Matt Akins of Citizens For Justice attempted to interview a Springfield police officer about the subject, but they refused to answer any questions and directed him to their attorney.
The complete lack of urgency to respond to my complaint, or change the behavior concerning such a serious problem, shows me there is an undeniable lack of leadership among those in charge of these agencies. Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott, Springfield Police Department Chief Paul F. Williams, and Springfield Greene County 911 Emergency Communications Director Zim Schwartze need to deal with this breach of the public trust or be held accountable for their apathy.
The only thing that has changed is the way these officers identify the social security numbers when they read them over the air, and these changes haven’t even been adopted across the board. Some officers are using the term “9-digit” or simply stated they have a “number” prior to reading an SSN to dispatch, while others still used terms such as “social,” “SSN,” or outright said “social security number.”
This isn’t an effective solution to the problem, and it won’t stop identity thieves. We all know what a 9-digit is. That’s your social security number. It’s nine digits. If I can figure this out, a career criminal who specializes in stealing identities can figure it out just as easy.
The Next Step
I’m now contacting people who have had their private information broadcast by these law enforcement agencies and determining what damage may have occurred as a result. The people that I have talked to so far have expressed feelings ranging from anger to disbelief. An overwhelming feeling of distrust for local law enforcement has also emerged among the victims of the information breaches.
They refuse to stop broadcasting sensitive information. They have a blatant disregard for the safety and security of the citizens they are sworn to protect and serve. It appears to me they are just waiting for this to go away. It won’t. I will not stop until the behavior is corrected and the people can again feel their private information is secure.
Springfield Is Broadcasting Social Security Numbers Over Its Police Scanner (RiverFront Times)
Springfield Area Law Enforcement Accused of Sharing Private Information (CBS KOLR10)
Springfield Missouri Law Enforcement Leaking Social Security Numbers
Investigator Files Complaint Against Greene County Sheriff’s Department (Raw Footage)
Private Investigator Attempts to Serve Complaint on 911 Center
Investigator Files a Complaint Against Springfield Police Department (Raw Footage)
Springfield Police Department Detective Confronts Man Filming Police Station
Police Department Security and Digital Media
MO Lic. #2012034128
Previous Coverage of From Citizens For Justice:
My interview with Citizen For Justice pertaining to the illegal release of personal information by the Springfield Police Department, Greene County Sheriff’s Department, and Springfield-Greene County 911 Emergency Communications Center