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California DOJ Data Portal Remains Down After Breach

The California Attorney General's Office confirmed Thursday that the OpenJustice web portal remains offline after a trove of personal data related to concealed weapons applicants was exposed in late June.

(TNS) — California's premier data portal for all things criminal justice remains down more than two weeks after a major data breach involving anyone who tried to get a permit to carry a concealed gun in the state during the past decade.

There is no time table for when a portal frequently used by researchers, journalists and the public will be back up.

Two spokespeople for the California Attorney General's Office confirmed on background Thursday that the office's OpenJustice web portal — a repository for annual statistics on everything from the number and types of crimes and arrests to the geography and jurisdiction of police-force incidents and deaths in custody — will remain offline indefinitely as a full-scale review of the office's technical services, policies and procedures continues.

OpenJustice glitched out on June 28, which happened to be the same day Attorney General Rob Bonta held a news conference to say the number of reported hate crimes in the state rose to their highest level since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. As Bonta soberly discussed 2021 increases in reported hate crimes across most protected categories of race, ethnicity and religion, the link to the report that contextualized his statements went down. (The report can now be found at another link.)

But it was a massive data breach tied to something earlier in the week that prompted the attorney general and the California Department of Justice that he oversees to pull the curtain on OpenJustice.

On June 27, the same day Bonta announced a Firearms Dashboard Portal had premiered on OpenJustice, his Justice Department learned of the unauthorized release of a trove of personal data — including names, birth dates, addresses and in some cases drivers-license numbers — of individuals who were granted or denied a permit to carry a concealed weapon between 2011 and 2021.

In some cases, internal codes relating to the reason someone was prohibited from owning a firearm were also leaked, Bonta's office acknowledged two days after the breach.

In a statement, Bonta called the unauthorized release of personal information "unacceptable" and said he "immediately launched an investigation" that would result in "strong corrective measures where necessary."

"We acknowledge the stress this may cause those individuals whose information was exposed," Bonta's statement added. "I am deeply disturbed and angered."

State justice officials haven't indicated whether foul play was suspected in the data breach or whether it occurred because of an internal lapse or external cause, saying only that the agency "was made aware of a disclosure of personal information that was accessible in a spreadsheet on the portal."

The fallout consumed other transparency projects that can help the public keep tabs on crime and police accountability in their cities and counties, including visual data representations of domestic violence crimes and the racial disparities behind police stops.

"Data and technology have the power to dramatically increase transparency and accountability in our criminal justice system," then-Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement when the state Legislature passed the bill that created the OpenJustice portal in August 2016. "I applaud the California Legislature's passage of this legislation, which will bring criminal justice data reporting into the 21st Century."

©2022 the San Francisco Chronicle, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.