Colombian police ‘steal personal data’ of 31 million citizens

Anthony Cotrino SossaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The National Police Force of Colombia have stolen the contents of an enormous electronic database containing the personal information of over 31 million Colombian citizens, according to news reports from Bogotá. News of the alleged theft surfaced following a formal complaint filed by the Colombian government’s National Registry on Tuesday. According to the complaint, authored by the Registry’s Director, Anthony Cotrino Sossa, two police officers visited the Registry’s offices late last week, saying they wished to access data relating to a specific investigation concerning “election irregularities” in Colombia’s western Cauca state. The two police officers were given access to the data after displaying the appropriate warrant. However, according to Sossa’s complaint, instead of simply accessing limited information relating directly to their investigation, the police officers proceeded to physically and illegally remove two hard-drives containing millions of citizens’ private data. The database stored in the hard-drives contains, among other things, general biographical information, fingerprint samples, as well as residential and other contact information on over 31 million Colombians. Sossa claims in his complaint that police officers transported the hard-drives to the headquarters of Colombia’s Cyber-Police Division, which allegedly failed to respond to repeated calls by National Registry for their prompt return. The hard-drives were eventually returned to the National Registry building on the following Monday without any explanation having been given for their removal. This is the latest in a long series of scandals concerning the activities of Colombia’s chronically corrupt and inefficient law enforcement and intelligence services. In 2009, the government announced criminal charges against several former officials accused of spying on political opponents of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. The charges led to an extensive reorganization of Colombia’s intelligence community, which eventually resulted in the dismantling of the country’s Administrative Department of Security (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad, or DAS). The scandal even forced the United States, Colombia’s staunchest politically ally, to stop subsidizing the DAS. Washington condemned the DAS for “repeatedly engaging in phone tapping, email interception, and other illegal activities against law-abiding citizens, including collusion with illegal armed groups”. Speaking about this latest scandal, National Registry Director Anthony Cotrino Sossa said the theft of the citizens’ private data “places a grave risk on the democratic process” in Colombia.

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