Thursday, April 10, 2008

House Staffers Livid Over Web Site

Here's an interesting privacy conundrum from the Washington Post:

"Working from a cramped loft apartment a mile from the Capitol, a small Internet company has sparked a privacy rights battle with hundreds of angry top House staffers upset that the Web site has begun posting details about their personal finances.

In an unusual conflict over constitutional rights, the aides argue that the recent disclosures leave them highly vulnerable to identity theft. But the Web site, LegiStorm, contends that it has a First Amendment right to publish already public information about some of the Capitol's most powerful players -- the high-level staffers -- and is creating a new check against potential corruption."

Apparently the site includes names, job titles and salaries, which would probably seem ok but it also has home addresses, bank account and other personal financial details of the staffer and in some cases members of their family. The latter information is pushing the envelope at the very least. So is this a function of the financial disclosure information forms that Congress requires staff to fill in or a function of the fact that these details are now available on the Web? The website owner has apparently removed very specific bank account and social security number details in 20 cases where he felt the material was too private. He has also apologised to the individuals concerned.

Just one more example of how the Web completely changes the scale of what it is possible to do with personal information on an electronic database connected to the network.

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