Nov. 6, 2006 at 8:00 AM ET
There's a new reason to be concerned about an encounter with local police, whether you're a victim or a suspect.
In Ohio last month, a police department accidentally published intimate details about every person officers encountered during a single day, including Social Security Numbers, driver's license numbers and more.
A stray click led the Bowling Green, Ohio, Police Department to publish the wrong report to the agency's police blotter Web site on Oct. 21, according to operations Lt. Brad Biller. Instead of posting a sanitized blotter, with all the personal information redacted, the agency published what is known as an "end of day report."
That report includes birth dates, SSNs, race descriptions, license numbers and more on each of the nearly 200 people the cops had contact with that day. It also included extended narratives about each incident, written by the responding police officer.
"A dispatcher ran the wrong report and provided the wrong report to the technology people," Biller said. "We uploaded the wrong report."
Web surfer Ann Snowberger, who lives in Three Forks, Mont., alerted MSNBC.com to the error. She found it using Google while she was researching an individual whose name appeared in the report.
That person, whose name MSNBC.com agreed not to publish, had been given a warning on Oct. 21 because she had not properly displayed her front license plate.
"Much to my horror," Snowberger said. "I discovered that the Bowling Green Police department has published 52 pages (of the report) on the Internet."
By the time MSNBC.com searched for the report, it was no longer available on the Bowling Green Web site. The city only stores 7 days worth of reports on its site. But a cached version of the report was stored on Google's servers, and was accessible Friday afternoon. The cached version was removed after MSNBC.com contacted Google.
Inadvertent publication of Social Security Numbers on government Web sites is nothing new. Private information can often be found on county tax records, divorce or bankruptcy proceedings and other public documents published by local agencies.