Science and Technology News

Thursday, June 11, 2015

One Airman's journey to cyber freedom leads others

by Chrissy Cuttita
45th Space Wing Public Affairs

6/11/2015 - PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- When the news reported military members were being virtually targeted by terrorist groups, one Airman became so driven to mask his personal information from the internet he ended up on a road trip to Florida's Capitol Hill.

Tech. Sgt. Carlos Laurencio, a mission assurance technician of the 5th Space Launch Squadron, became curious to know what sort of information was on the internet about himself after reading reports about how another service member's residence was being threatened by a known terrorist organization.

His research led him to discover his concern to protect other military members' personal information became a bill that was filed by the Florida House of Representatives in January. Then he had the opportunity to witness the process it took to become a state law.

"Tech. Sgt. Laurencio deserves all of the credit for asking the questions, digging in and actively working as a concerned citizen to protect his fellow military members," said Lt. Col. David Leach, 5th SLS commander. "This is a great example of our core values in action."

The NCO was beginning the process of clearing his personal information from third party internet searches when at the same time the bill "CS/CS/CS/HB 185 Public Records/Active Duty Servicemembers and Family" was being drafted at Florida's capitol building.

On June 2, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill which "provides an exemption from public records requirements for certain identification and location information of current or former service members of the United States Armed Forces, Reserve Forces, or National Guard, including their spouses and children," according to the state governor's webpage.

Laurencio said he started his journey into the center of state politics by researching the names of the most popular data aggregator websites and contacted each individually. Some sites allowed him to login and delete his information. Others asked for identification and notarized letters.

"I felt vulnerable," he said, after discovering how buying a house or registering a boat can get a personal address into the wrong hands.

This ignited Laurencio to go to his city hall with high hopes to have his public record information protected.  However, while there, he discovered that military personnel are not covered in a long list of exempted categories such as police officers, firefighters, judges, and other public officials whose personnel information is protected under Florida Statue 119.071.

Once he discovered how many local government offices could legally give out his information, Laurencio started visiting them one-by-one to ask them to list his information as "confidential," knowing that he was not in an exempted status and, if asked, those offices would have to legally provide his information.

"On top of feeling vulnerable, I felt exploited," he said about some office's ability to sell personal information to other ".com" registries. "You disclose this information because you think it is only going to be for official business and not for sale."

Since his first interaction with social media he knew to be mindful and take precautions when releasing personal identifiable information but he never knew how many other places could distribute that information on his behalf.

"No one needs to know all of the information Facebook asks for, such as phone and addresses, when registering for an account," he said.

"All of the people who matter know how to get a hold of me," said Laurencio.

However, what the 15-year veteran didn't know was people he never met could easily get his information through third party sources or government offices. Laurencio noticed his personal information was available on the internet through various government organizations such as the county tax collector, property appraiser, voter registration and even city utility offices. 

Laurencio took the next step of contacting his congressman knowing the only way to get public records of military personnel exempted was to change the law. An executive in that office, who sided with the NCO's position, asked him to draft an email for the State Attorney General.

He said he knew then he would have to seek the appropriate guidance from his chain of command and base legal office to exercise his Constitutional rights as a concerned citizen.

"This is a huge deal for protecting our military personnel who have been in the news as being targeted by terrorist groups," Leach said.

When his co-workers began to ask what Laurencio's big tasking was, they asked the same questions he initially did.

"When I saw them (my coworkers) getting upset I knew I must be doing the right thing," said Laurencio, who is also serves his squadron's antiterrorism monitor, an additional duty he takes seriously.

By keeping in touch with the congressman's office and the attorney general, he was not only able to get the most current drafts of the bill and its status, he also learned there was an opportunity to watch the bill in session online and in person.

After his first disappointment of not seeing the bill presented in an online session, he decided go to Tallahassee, Florida, to watch the next one.

"It was a cool experience," he said. "Seeing the diversity was the best part; young people, women, all walks of life, cowboy hats, designer suits, all sorts of accents. Whether or not the people agreed, all of them were together to make the state better."

But as much as he said he fell in love with the idea of public service even more, he spent a day of sitting in the Senate chamber where there was no mention of the bill.
He began to question the process again and started calling his resources. However, with one phone call, he learned the win was in the House that day, not the Senate, with a unanimous vote of 113 yeas. A few days later the Senate also unanimously passed it with 40 yeas on April 23.

Laurencio said he always had a sense of public service that drives him to do more, which is how he evolved from being an active member of his homeowners association for 144 homes in his community to becoming a commissioner on a seven-man environmental commission for the city he lives in.

"Maybe I'll be in the state legislature in the future," Laurencio pondered.

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