Travelers shouldn#8217;t have to worry about privacy

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 11, 2008

State Department workers who snooped on presidential candidates’ passport records lost their jobs, but they apparently weren’t alone in indulging their curiosity.

A State Department investigation looked at the records of 150 high-profile people — politicians, athletes and entertainers — and found that 127 of them had been accessed 4,148 times over a six-year period.

The investigation doesn’t say whether there was a legitimate reason for workers to look up the files of the famous. But it does note that the number &uot;appears to be excessive&uot; and calls it suspicious.

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That’s troubling, and not only for celebrities. The system is supposed to protect the confidentiality of all passport records, which include such sensitive information as Social Security numbers and passport numbers.

The report recommends stronger safeguards, including random audits of passport files, a decrease in the number of people authorized to view records and an increase in the number of employees who monitor other workers. And it recommends improved privacy training for all employees.

Those changes are clearly needed. While the travel habits of an ordinary citizen might not pique the interest of a bored passport worker, no one should have to worry that their privacy is being compromised.

The Times-Picayune

New Orleans