It may not rise to the level of the NSA surveillance scandal, but each week more cases alleging privacy breaches by police and government employees snooping into Minnesotans' personal driver license data without cause come to light and go to court.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety database contains personal information such as addresses, Social Security numbers and health conditions, according to court documents. The federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act protects individuals from unwarranted "lookups" or "pings" of their records and levies a penalty that dwarfs any speeding ticket -- $2,500 per violation.
Yet one newly minted case filed by 18 Wabasha County conservative activists - a state representative and two sitting county commissioners among them - ups the ante by raising accusations of prying into driver license data for political purposes.
"You line up dates and start to look at what was I doing around those different times and why are these particular pings concentrated here and it's pretty clear," said Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, whose records were accessed 94 times. "There's definitely activity that coincides with political activity. I had a good number of pings that happened on and before and right after announcing for office in two different general elections and one special election."
The onslaught of legal claims follows a high-profile $1 million-plus settlement for a former police officer who documented hundreds of breaches of her personal data across multiple jurisdictions. A Twin Cities news anchor and her journalist husband recently filed a lawsuit in federal court against several local governments in connection with more than 1,400 allegedly illegal inquiries.