Since Edward Snowden released his treasure trove of documents about government spying, we've all been concerned about the NSA's ability to secretly collect our personal information. But, it turns out there could be an equally dangerous threat to your privacy right in your own backyard. That's right, there are local law enforcement agencies out there collecting and sharing your private info nationwide without your knowledge.
The controversy began when word came out about traffic stop techniques that an Oklahoma-based private contractor called Desert Snow has taught law enforcement officers. The stops are designed to help police make drug and money seizures on national highways.
Desert Snow took the services a step further last year when it was contracted by Caddo County in Oklahoma. The county agreed to pay the company 25 percent of all cash seized. But, a judge threw a wrench in the plan when he found out Desert Snow contractors were making traffic stops and seizures all on their own and threatened to throw them in jail if it happened again.
And, if that isn't scary enough, the company also set up a networking website that lets officers across the country share your personal information, whether you committed a crime or not.
Desert Snow's founder created a website called Black Asphalt over 10 years ago that lets law enforcement officers share information about anyone they've stopped in the past, including Social Security numbers. Over 25,000 officers across the country on both the local and federal level have used the site to share information about anyone, even people not charged with a crime.
For years, [the site] received no oversight by government, even though its reports contained law enforcement sensitive information about traffic stops and seizures, along with hunches and personal data about drivers, including Social Security numbers and identifying tattoos.
Logan County Sheriff's Department in Oklahoma began running Black Asphalt in 2012, but has since stopped hosting the site. But, that doesn't mean it's gone. The sheriff's department in Kane County, Illinois, will now be the site's home.
The police have certain rights to private information if you commit a crime, but there's no reason they should be collecting and sharing the Social Security numbers of people who've done nothing wrong.
I love police officers and am so thankful for the tough job they do and how well they do it. I trust police departments to act with integrity and respect in enforcing the laws passed down from the state.
That being said, no one is perfect and it's up to law-abiding citizens to make sure the police are keeping the trust we place in them. Now more than ever, it's a good idea to have a camera at the ready in your car. I have a dash cam available in my store that can help you keep everything recorded in case your rights are violated.