On a sunny afternoon in March, a young woman wearing a red shirt and a blue jacket steps out of a police station in rural Kentucky.
She holds a bag of food for herself and a bag for a young man.
She is not a police officer, but her appearance is unmistakable.
“I am here to help you out with a data breach,” the woman says, before pointing to a window.
“There is a possibility that you have a file on your computer.
If it is on your PC, it is a possible breach.”
A little later, she walks back to the window and looks down on the street below.
“It’s probably worth looking at it,” she says, as if she is taking the precautionary step.
But there is a catch.
The file she has just retrieved is a database file.
Its contents are confidential and can be kept from the public.
“The data in this database is confidential and cannot be released to anyone without your consent,” says the Kentucky Office of Public Safety.
In Kentucky, privacy laws are far more lax than in the United States.
“Kentucky is a very privacy-conscious state, and we don’t really have laws that require data retention,” says Jessica McGehee, a privacy attorney in Louisville, Ky.
Kentucky’s privacy laws, though, do require the disclosure of a suspect’s social security number.
A police officer or employee’s name and badge number are also required to make a disclosure.
Kentuckians are also supposed to keep a record of every visit they make to the local jail, and the contents of their phone.
But the state doesn’t keep that data.
It simply transmits the information to other authorities, such as the Kentucky State Police, the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office, the National Security Agency and other agencies.
This is not the first time Kentucky has been at the center of a data security breach.
In 2014, the state’s police department was hacked and the records of hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians were exposed.
The Kentucky Department of Public Instruction says the breach happened while an investigation was underway.
“A few weeks before, a man had attempted to hack into a public information system, and while he was not able to get into the system he had accessed it,” the department wrote in a statement.
The state has since launched an investigation into the incident.
While the Kentucky incident was embarrassing, it did not lead to any serious breaches.
“This is a national issue, not just in Kentucky, but nationwide,” McGehea says.
“Every state and federal agency in the country is in the business of collecting and sharing information, and it is important that these programs are fully implemented.”
In 2014, a federal judge ruled in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union that Kentucky’s law requiring the retention of criminal records was unconstitutional.
But he did not extend that ruling to the state.
Kentucks chief privacy officer, John P. McElroy, who was appointed by Gov.
Steve Beshear, said in a speech last year that he was “satisfied that the Department of State has taken reasonable steps to protect the public from a potential breach.”
He added, “It is my expectation that the department will take the necessary actions to ensure that the information it collects is only used for legitimate purposes.”
McElroy declined to say whether Kentucky had a response from the National Archives about the case.
“Our department will not discuss the contents or contents of an investigation,” McElry wrote in an email.
“As a matter of policy, we do not comment on the contents, contents of investigations, or any other aspect of an ongoing legal matter.”