by Joe Mueller
Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson on Wednesday expressed confidence the Cole County prosecutor will charge the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for violating a state law protecting computer networks.
Gov. Parson called for the Highway Patrol to investigate the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Oct. 15 after it notified the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education its public-facing website contained Social Security numbers of teachers in its HTML code – visible to anyone using an Internet browser. Parson stated the “hack” might cost Missouri taxpayers as much as $50 million.
Earlier this week, the Missouri Highway Patrol told several media outlets it turned over its report on the matter to the prosecutor after a two-month investigation.
Parson noted his 22 years in law enforcement before reviewing Missouri Statute 569.095 and stating the newspaper admitted to violating several points in the law.
“That is the element of a crime,” Parson said. “The point why this is so important, as a private citizen – under freedom – no one should have the right to take your private information. And I don’t care whether it’s in a government agency, whether it’s in a private business or whether it’s at home, nobody has the right to take an individual’s information for whatever excuse they might use for that.”
Parson used an analogy of a lock securing your home to communicate his interpretation of the law.
“If somebody picked your lock on your house for whatever reason – it’s not a good lock, it’s a cheap lock or whatever problem you might have – they do not have the right to go into your house and take anything that belongs to you,” Parson said. “This is exactly why this statue is in place. And whether it be the media or anyone else, it does not have the right to go get your private information, share that information, and keep that information from you. That’s the facts of the case that’s why this is important to make sure that we don’t allow people to do that.”
According to the statute, tampering with computer data is a misdemeanor, “unless the offense is committed for the purpose of devising or executing any scheme or artifice to defraud or to obtain any property, the value of which is $750 or more, in which case it is a class E felony.”
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Joe Mueller covers Missouri for The Center Square. After seven years of reporting for daily newspapers in Illinois and Missouri, he spent the next 30 years in public relations serving non-profit organizations and as a strategic communications consultant.
Photo “Gov. Mike Parson” by Governor Mike Parson.