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OH: Government Collecting Personal Information About Neighbors of Sex Offenders

August 10, 2010

Google/AP: In turnabout, Ohio ex-con gets data on neighbors.

Columbus, Ohio — Neighbors routinely get a picture and a name when a sex offender moves next door. In a turnabout, an Ohio sex offender has received private information about his neighbors, including their Social Security numbers.

The material was shown to The Associated Press by convicted a sex offender XXX, who was mistakenly given the information by a prosecutor. The data also contain the names, addresses and birth dates of nine of XXX’s one-time neighbors on Columbus’ east side.

There was no indication XXX misused anything in the files. XXX, 80, says he came forward because he recognizes the irony of it falling into the hands of someone like him. “Someone with a criminal mind could really use that information the wrong way,” he said.

The case also offers a view into a massive and controversial database designed to track criminals with the help of a raft of background information, including data on people whose only connection to a criminal is a similar address.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien took responsibility for the error, which he believes to be isolated.(yeah, right)

XXX’s former neighbors, meanwhile, are wondering why the government has data about them at all.
“They don’t need to be running my personal information,” said Don Hickman, 47, who still lives on the street where XXX once worked as a live-in church groundskeeper. “I’m not a sex offender. I’ve done nothing wrong here.”

Neighbor information is useful to police when serving warrants, making family connections and finding fugitives, said Shannon Crowther, who heads technology services for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.

The information was released to XXX last summer, as prosecutors were grappling with more than 7,000 lawsuits that sex offenders had filed against Ohio’s first-in-the-nation implementation of the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. The offenders’ challenges contend the federal law’s stricter classifications and longer reporting periods can’t be applied retroactively. (see Bodyke vs. Ohio)

XXX’s His obligation to stay on the registry expired in July. O’Brien said XXX had zealously sought records held in his county sex offender file. After XXX threatened to take the issue to federal court, an assistant prosecutor turned over the documents.

“They feared he’d say, ‘See, you’re still hiding stuff,’ so they released everything in the file, lock, stock and barrel, and didn’t properly review it,” O’Brien said. “They gave him things they shouldn’t have.”

This is what you deserve when you allow government to post citizens on public registries. Once you allow the surveillance of one person, you give up your own privacy as well. You really didn’t think it would stop at just sex offenders, did you?

This former offender should be applauded. He did the right thing; turning over the information to authorities without using it for his own gain, even as the state of Ohio was violating his constitutional rights by keeping him listed on the sex offender registry retro-actively, which has now been prohibited by the Ohio Supreme Court.

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