When government agencies try to access the personal information of American citizens, they normally need to obtain warrants, court orders, or subpoenas to get it. But a backdoor at the State Department is allowing agencies to access all sorts of sensitive information about Americans without any of these legal safeguards.
Have you applied for a passport recently? Passport applications have all sorts of sensitive personally identifiable information on them, including biometric information such as photographs. You would expect that this information would be kept confidential within the State Department’s files or databases, but that’s not the case.
Instead, the State Department has offered the information contained within these applications to numerous government agencies. At least 25 federal agencies have access to this information, and who knows whether state agencies have also tried to access this information. Some of the access has been to snoop around regarding the backgrounds of journalists and Congressional aides, a clear abuse of the purpose of the passport application.
When we provide our information on government applications we expect that information to be used solely for the purpose of the application, and not as a free for all for other government agencies to snoop around at will. The worst part of this is that the State Department isn’t even required to share any of this information with anyone, yet voluntarily chooses to make it available.
Of course, the obvious question now is, if the State Department is engaging in this type of information sharing, which other agencies are doing the same? Is your Department of Motor Vehicles sharing your driver’s license application information with other government agencies? How about your concealed carry permit application information?
If one government agency is doing something like this, there’s a very good chance that another one is doing the same thing. And while it’s important to try to shut down these abuses whenever they’re found, this should also serve as a reminder never to trust the government with any more information than it absolutely needs.