7/28/2007California Traffic Ticket Information is Processed in Mexico
California courts have been sending traffic citations containing sensitive personal information to processing centers in Mexico.
Traffic tickets issued in Orange County, California are processed by workers in Nogales, Mexico according to a court announcement released Thursday. The Orange County Superior Court signed a $1.5 million contract in March 2006 to hand over half-a-million traffic tickets every year to Cal Coast Data Entry (CCDE) for processing. Each of these tickets, containing sensitive personal data on individual motorists including name, address, driver's license number and signature, is transferred via microwave uplink to a work center in Nogales.
"Orange County traffic citations are scanned locally," the Superior Court press release stated. "The electronic data is encrypted and transferred to the outsourcing facilities, using state-of-the art security encryption methods."
A caller to the John & Ken Show on the popular Los Angeles talk radio station KFI broke the news on Thursday afternoon. The outraged hosts urged listeners to call the court and "ask why they're subjecting you to identity theft." The court reported receiving hundreds of calls and was forced to issue a second, defensive press release underscoring how seriously it took the security concerns.
"The Nogales employees must also be certified by the Sonoran State Police that they have passed a background search and do not have a criminal record," the Superior Court press release stated.
A 2007 report by Amnesty International documented corruption in Mexico's police forces, "including the wide gap between legal principles and effective protection." Past reports by the group singled out the Sonoran State Police for its efforts to detain and torture Catholic priests for political reasons.
Ticket outsourcing may not be limited to Orange County. In 2004, the California legislature passed a bill that would have banned state and local governments from entering into contracts with companies that would use foreign labor to fulfill the contract. This would have outlawed the Orange County's current arrangement, but Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) -- a company that runs a multi-billion-dollar parking ticket and red light camera operation for local governments -- lobbied against the bill. The company, which has 2000 employees in India, was also the fourth-largest campaign donor to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"This bill adds additional restrictions on state contractors, thereby resulting in less competition at the state and local levels and ultimately result in higher prices paid by governmental entities for goods and services," Schwarzenegger wrote in his veto message.
The outsourcing of photo ticket processing has also been raised as an issue in Texas. During negotiations for the lucrative Houston red light camera contract, Rhode Island-based Nestor Inc. officials claimed that Arizona rival ATS outsourced operations to India. ATS denied the charge, according to reports in the Houston Chronicle newspaper.
Orange County's outsourcing contract expires February 2008. A copy of the court's press releases is available in a 63k PDF file at the source link below.