When the Chief of Police Violates Privacy

Tom Casady is currently the Chief of Police for Lincoln, Nebraska.  As a child of Lincoln, I enjoy reading his fantastic blog called, “The Chief’s Corner.”  I was recently alarmed when I read an article written by Tom that rehashed the offensive/silly/inappropriate email usernames people use to inquire about employment with the Lincoln Police Department.  I was shocked to see the email usernames of applicants revealed in public on Tom’s blog because that is in the least a violation of privacy for those making an inquiry, and perhaps, even a more serious ethical violation of a vested public city official.  I was unable to find the recent article that shocked me, but doing a search on Tom’s site led me to a dead link for this page written on December 2, 2008 where Tom Casady revealed live email usernames of the inquirers — figuring our the entire email address is not that hard and often doing a Google search on a unique username alone can reveal a lot.  I have blurred the email addresses contained in that article:


Tom ends that deleted article with this warning:

Now would be a good time to repeat my annual warning about the digital footprints you leave with email, photo sharing, blogs, personal websites, facebook, myspace, and so forth. Do not mash the enter key and send something that could cause regret when it surfaces down the road at an inopportune time.

Tom is absolutely right — but he didn’t follow his own advice and cover his footfalls fast enough — and his warning now invites the making of a great detective story.

A year later, you can still find his original blog post by doing a proper Google Search for the article and then clicking on the link for the Google Cache to see the article “as it was” before it was deleted.

Even though that article link was dead,
it still lives in the Google Cache:

I did a little extra searching and actually found this year’s version of the “let’s make fun of the LPD job applicants” blog post — it looks like this is a yearly feature for the Chief — and I’m sure all the old articles are in the Google Cache if one would care to keep digging. 

Here’s the blog post dated January 14, 2010 that initially alarmed me:

Once again, the Google Cache reveals the Chief’s visible digital footprint in full:

It appears someone wise got to Tom Casady after January 14, 2010 and instructed him to delete all his previous articles mocking the applicant email usernames and that’s a good thing — though I wish he’d written a recantation blog post that explained why he removed the articles and also included an apology for revealing private user information.

The trouble is, Tom Casady didn’t go far enough.  He left the Google Cache intact. 

Here are the instructions for removing content from Google and the Google Cache — and he will have to follow that process for each and every article he wants removed.

Does Tom Casady know about the Wayback Machine?

Does the Police Chief know about the Bing cache and the Yahoo! cache and all the other internet search spiders that visit his side on a daily basis?  Write once, cache forever.

Tom Casady is a pretty transparent guy and that’s what makes reading
his blog so wonderful and joyous:  He’s a straight shooter.  Let’s hope the Chief sees the cache light and confesses the why of how he didn’t follow his own
prescient advice about not leaving behind digital breadcrumbs for the
finding. 

We also need to get Tom — and Lincoln Crimestoppersoff Blogger and onto a proper and more serious writing platform.

The lesson we must all take away from this experience is that if the Chief of Police can get caught in the Google Cache — so can we all — and that’s why we must remain diligent and open in our wont to make the public world a safer place online.

I have saved PDF copies of my finds revealed here found in the Google Cache — just to preserve the record and the integrity of this article — but my hope is that soon you will click on the Google Cache links in this post and find them dead and forever gone.  On Google… that is…

7 comments

  • I wonder if he felt it was okay to post them since he didn’t list the email companies and there are so many to which they can be linked?

  • The usernames are very unique — so if you’re willing to dig a little, you can use a Google Search and find out a lot of information based on the username alone. If there were no privacy problem, why are the blog posts deleted?

  • UPDATE:
    I found Tom’s email address and sent him a heads up on this article.
    Tom provided a quick and kind response and he is now working on removing the cached content from Google.

  • kathakali.chatterjee

    I think Tom didn’t foresee the trouble…happens with this “transparent, straight shooter” kind of people…but I understand he should have. Glad to see the update – it proves his genuineness.

  • That’s good analysis — I just don’t understand the initial impetus to mock the actual usernames in print on the blog. That ongoing effort diminishes the Chief of Police in situ — and that’s without considering any privacy laws that protect job applicants that may have been violated.
    The Chief of Police is the head law enforcer on the streets and that job is to lead and to protect and to serve and, I would hope, not pre-judge applicants from a hiring pool based on an email username alone.
    Don’t we want our public servants to be open and helpful in process instead of lurking and waiting for the moment to pounce on someone else’s unintentional faux pas?

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