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FLCGA helps Orlando Sentinel with records request that illustrates breach of agency personal-information database

FLCGA Research Assistant CD Davidson-Hiers

The Florida Center for Government Accountability helped the Orlando Sentinel obtain public records that exposed a former Florida tax collector’s extensive, unauthorized searches through an agency’s personal information database.

Joel Greenberg, the former Seminole County tax collector who pleaded guilty to identity theft, stalking and sex trafficking, used his position to look through a state database for individuals’ personal information in more than 700 name searches, the Sentinel detailed in stories covering the breach.

Among the names Greenberg searched were pop stars Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. Greenberg also looked into the information of U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz, Greenberg’s friend who currently is reported to be the subject of a separate sex-trafficking investigation. The former tax collector also looked up his mother’s information and searched for the records of a father of a rival county commissioner, the Sentinel wrote.

The Driver and Vehicle Information Database system, known as DAVID, that Greenberg accessed is used by criminal justice and law enforcement officials to search for peoples’ birth dates, addresses, Social Security numbers, signatures, medical and other personal information, the Sentinel wrote.

Officials discovered the data breach while they were in the process of fulfilling the FLCGA public records request. That’s when “we determined that this had happened,” a spokesperson from the tax collector’s office told the Orlando Sentinel.

Spokesman Alan Byrd also told the Sentinel the DAVID system administrators did not condone Greenberg’s activities. He did note that some of the searches “could have been legitimate such as someone asking (Greenberg) to see if their driver’s license was still valid,” the Sentinel wrote.

Read the Orlando Sentinel coverage of the breach here and here.