EJM Designs Limited Blog

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Clerical Error Exposes LAPD: File Names and Email Subjects Matter

LA Times:
The Los Angeles Police Commission violated its own strict privacy policy -- and perhaps state law -- on Friday, releasing a confidential report on the Internet that contained the names of hundreds of officers accused of racial profiling and other misconduct.

The blunder, which police officials attributed to a clerical error, marks an embarrassing misstep for a police department that has staunchly rebuffed efforts by the public to learn the identities of accused officers and gain greater access to the discipline process.
A clerical error. I'm guessing that clerk has been fired or is getting wasted this weekend in anticipation of such firing.

And I'm going to take this in a completely different direction. The story goes on to say that someone reviewed a paper copy of the file that had no names in it and they assumed the electronic version was the same.

Lesson learned: always use best practices for naming files. If you have a file called


you'd probably want to make some differentiations. Such as


Is that so hard?

Point is, whether you're the LAPD or a business sending files that travel internally and others that go to the client (or press), you need to have proper naming conventions in place for files that are making different rounds. And after you have that in place, you need to put at least one filter into the process.

In the business mind, before you send a single email to a client, you need to send it to one other person, just as you would send it to that client. Worst case: it wastes 10 minutes. Best case: it catches a snarky comment, misspelling, or other error.

Or it catches the file with all the names that should not be made public.

Keep your house in order. It will pay off.

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