No Rummaging in Records

October 4, 1996
THE DAILY FED

No Rummaging in Records

Federal employees who are thinking about using their access to federal computer systems to pry into confidential records better think again.

The National Information Infrastructure Protection Act of 1996, which was passed by Congress and sent to President Clinton on Wednesday, prohibits government employees from using their computer access privileges to confidential files for non-official reasons. Furthermore, if an employee sells confidential information accessed on a government computer, the employee will be charged with a felony.

The act amends previous legislation which did not specifically prohibit federal employees from unauthorized use of databases like the National Crime Information Center's criminal history records.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), in praising the Senate for passing the measure, cited a "Dear Abby" column appearing on June 20 as an example of government workers abusing their access to confidential information. A woman who did not identify herself alleged that her brother-in-law had used his access to FBI files to look up her criminal record as a joke.

A 1993 GAO report found that "insiders" with access to National Crime Information Center data had sold information to outsiders and had looked up friends' and relatives' criminal histories.

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