Privacy Issues in the Public Sector
While we all want to leave work at work, some professionals do not have that option. It’s an unfortunate fact that judicial officers, social workers, law enforcement, and other public servants can experience targeted attacks in their homes. In fact, the number of threats has risen dramatically over the past few years – by as much as 300%. “Doxing” – the act of publicly revealing previously private personal information about an individual or organization through the internet, is now a common occurrence.
- One judge in Los Angeles who ruled on an immigration case received more than 1,000 threats deemed by law enforcement as serious.
- In Los Angeles, an unknown individual posted the names and addresses of two officers online, as well as information about their children’s schools.
- In 2012, over 100 police officers in L.A. County had their addresses, names and phone numbers published.
- In 2020, 38 law enforcement officers in Portland, Oregon, were doxed amid ongoing protests in the area.
- Also in 2020, Chicago Police officers became the targets of doxing attacks, in which their personal information was shared on social media.
- One man was so determined to endanger a judge that he wrote a short book, titled “Judge (last name withheld) Is An (expletive) And He Lives At (home address).” Since Amazon is one of the internet’s most popular and highly indexed websites, any search for that judge by name would return this book listing that featured the judge’s name and address in its title.
- High-ranking police officials nationwide — including members of the NYPD – have had their personal information posted online. The officials have had their home addresses, emails, and phone numbers published online, according to an unclassified intelligence document from the US Department of Homeland Security.
- The Deputy Director of Operations for the Federal Protective Service, Richard Cline, released in a press conference that almost 40 federal officers had their private information released online. This, despite officers having their nametags removed from their uniform with only their badge numbers displayed.
- New Jersey Federal Court Judge Esther Salas’s 20-year-old son Daniel was fatally shot at her home last year. The convicted killer was in possession of the family’s address. He had compiled a dossier on the family, including where they went to church. All of the information he needed was readily available online, despite the laws now in place to protect judges. Salas’s husband was also hit and has since undergone multiple surgeries.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Who is in danger from privacy leaks?
Most cases of doxing that make the news involve law enforcement officers or judges. But such incidents are also commonplace with other professionals such as attorneys, psychiatrists, social workers, mental health professionals, politicians, election workers, teachers, principals and school board members. If your job sometimes requires making individuals or groups angry, you need to take action to protect yourself online.
Why has the danger become greater in recent years?
In a recent AP article Barbara Lynn, chief judge for the northern district of Texas, reflected how it wasn’t long ago that “virtually everyone recognized how inappropriate it was to threaten the life or security of a judge because of a disagreement with the judge’s decision.” Today? “I think there are a lot of people that don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”
The numbers bear this out. According to the US Marshals Service, there were more than 4,500 “inappropriate communications” aimed at judges and court employees last year. Just eight years ago, that number was below 750. Threats against police officers have also risen significantly.
There has also been an increase in the market for personal information. More than 200 companies now compile and sell public record information to anyone willing to pay for it.
Once information is on the internet, what can be done to remove it?
Anyone living in one of eight states that offer additional protection for police officers and judges (California, Texas, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Florida and New Jersey), can contact the website where the information was found, and demand they comply with the law. Those in other states can still contact the site, identify themselves as an officer or judge, and tell them that access to their private information puts them in potential danger. If they don’t respond, try emailing their legal department (usually legal@theirdomainhere) with the same request.
The task is more challenging with social media platforms and non-commercial sites. Try the same procedure, but it may also be necessary to contact both the site’s owner and its hosting entity (like Facebook).
- Do these steps always work?
Usually they do, at least temporarily. The problem is that new sites appear on the internet every day, so regular monitoring is necessary. Also, “people finder” sites like Spokeo, BeenVerified and WhitePages may take down a person’s information upon request, but put it back up a month later.
- If I live in one of the states where my online privacy is protected by law, am I safe?
No – while you are entitled to that protection, someone has to enforce that law, since websites that profit from your private data will not regulate themselves.
How can public servants further protect themselves (i.e., stop perpetuating privacy issues via better online habits)?
Take inventory of your social media, and that of your family’s, to ensure you are not sharing private information. And be more careful about sharing any information both online and off. Before you give out your email address, home address and mobile number, ask yourself who wants it and why.
Who We Are
IronWall360, powered by 360Civic, works with superior courts, justice departments and law enforcement agencies as a legally-contracted agent to formally remove personal information from any website in violation of state and federal restrictions.
We provide online privacy protection services to thousands of people, along with their spouses and children. Our daily searches cross a full range of internet sites, as well as social media. We not only remove our clients’ personal information from the internet and online databases, we also maintain that protection on an ongoing basis.
What We Do
Our proprietary software provides more comprehensive protection than companies that just scan “people finder” sites once a year. When we find client addresses online, we do more than send a notification to the website. We follow up until that content is taken down—even if it means legal action.
We also offer ancillary support, including high alert status in special circumstances (such as a contentious ruling or verdict). This delivers an extra level of support when help is needed.
In addition, we provide free seminars on how our clients can protect themselves and their families online.
360Civic has resources for you to consult when you’re researching online privacy issues including doxing, security breaches, social media risks, and other malicious attacks.
eBook: Protecting Your Privacy Online
Our eBook Protecting Your Privacy Online explores the following topics:
1. The dangers of having personal information available online – where it comes from, how it gets there, and how it can be used in malicious ways.
2. The protections that exist for individuals and professionals (such as doctors, therapists, social workers, et al.), and the enhanced protection legally extended to judges, law enforcement officers, political figures, and those in other select professions.
3. The options available for removing your information, from how to do it yourself to full-service removal and everything in between.
Webinar: Online Protection for Police Officers
We’ve all watched the news over the past year – there’s no escaping the reality that for police officers this is a very challenging and dangerous time. If you work in law enforcement or know someone who does, please don’t miss this opportunity to find out how easy it may be to access any officer’s personal information, and what can be done about it.
We also have the following subject experts available for interviews:
- Ron Zayas—Ron is the CEO of 360Civic, the company that created the IronWall360 online privacy protection service. Ron has been in the technology industry for the past 30 years owning companies in website design & development, hosting & security, and online privacy protection.
- Mark Clifford—A retired police Sergeant, Mark worked in online surveillance and observance and learned how certain groups actively encourage people to attack off-duty police officers and their families.
- Judges and Police Officers—We can also connect you with judicial officers or police officers to get their take on what they’re doing to ensure their social media and internet presence doesn’t put them and their families at risk.
IronWall360 is a service from 360Civic. For more information, visit 360civic.com/ironwall360.