How To Lie With Statistics

Life in the age of digital surveillance: Police using access to records to snoop in celebrities’ data (pdf)

The Criminal Offender Record Information system, with its massive databases of criminal records, driving histories, car ownership, and Social Security numbers, is intended to provide police and prosecutors with complete portraits of individuals who have been arrested or brought into the court system. Reports are available to other users such as landlords and some employers conducting background checks on prospective tenants and job seekers. Access is supposed to be restricted to authorized law enforcement users, who are specially trained.

But the yearlong review by state Auditor A. Joseph DeNucci depicts a system repeatedly accessed by users “without any apparent work-related justification.”

Such unauthorized use could be considered fraud under federal law, and “disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal and/or criminal prosecution” could follow misuse of the system, DeNucci’s audit said.

Curtis Wood, executive director of the Criminal History Systems Board, acknowledged that inappropriate searches have been made over the years, but said the number is small.

“Compared to the 13 million transactions in the system a month, the number is a small representation of our user community,” he said. “I’m fairly comfortable in saying that 99 percent do not misuse the system.”

Let’s see — that’s one percent of 13,000,000/month — or 130,000 illegal invasions of privacy per month — or roughly 3 per minute.

But, of course, you shouldn’t care since, of course, you aren’t doing anything wrong, are you?