Yet another massive U.S. government database—OneDOJ:
The Justice Department is building a massive database that allows state and local police officers around the country to search millions of case files from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal law enforcement agencies, according to Justice officials.
The system, known as “OneDOJ,” already holds approximately 1 million case records and is projected to triple in size over the next three years, Justice officials said. The files include investigative reports, criminal-history information, details of offenses, and the names, addresses and other information of criminal suspects or targets, officials said.
The database is billed by its supporters as a much-needed step toward better information-sharing with local law enforcement agencies, which have long complained about a lack of cooperation from the federal government.
But civil-liberties and privacy advocates say the scale and contents of such a database raise immediate privacy and civil rights concerns, in part because tens of thousands of local police officers could gain access to personal details about people who have not been arrested or charged with crimes.
The little-noticed program has been coming together over the past year and a half. It already is in use in pilot projects with local police in Seattle, San Diego and a handful of other areas, officials said. About 150 separate police agencies have access, officials said.
But in a memorandum sent last week to the FBI, U.S. attorneys and other senior Justice officials, Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty announced that the program will be expanded immediately to 15 additional regions and that federal authorities will “accelerate . . . efforts to share information from both open and closed cases.”
Eventually, the department hopes, the database will be a central mechanism for sharing federal law enforcement information with local and state investigators, who now run checks individually, and often manually, with Justice’s five main law enforcement agencies: the FBI, the DEA, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Bureau of Prisons and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Within three years, officials said, about 750 law enforcement agencies nationwide will have access.
Computerizing this stuff is a good idea, but any new systems need privacy safeguards built-in. We need to ensure that:
- Inaccurate data can be corrected.
- Data is deleted when it is no longer needed, especially investigative data on people who have turned out to be innocent.
- Protections are in place to prevent abuse of the data, both by people in their official capacity and people acting unofficially or fraudulently.
ln our rush to computerize these records, we’re ignoring these safeguards and building systems that will make us all less secure.