Today, our public records contain more information on an individual than they did when our country was born. They may include detailed financial, personal, and/or medical information; including, but not limited to, full name and home address (drivers license), home ownership and loans (land title records), assessed value of home (property tax), parentsí names (vital records), social security number (drivers license and land title records), physical description (drivers license), sex (drivers license), date of birth (drivers license), vision correctness (drivers license), medical conditions (drivers license), make and model of automobiles owned (motor vehicle and property tax), driving records (drivers license), political party affiliation (voter registration) voting frequency (voter registration), political contributions (election commissions), hobbies (hunting/fishing licenses) and boat/airplane ownership (license).
With modern technology, including the creation of the Internet, many government agencies are allowing anyone access to their public records without the necessity of going to the physical location of the government agency. Anyone with Internet connection can view documents in privacy and without detection. This access is both a curse and a benefit. Our government officials are now struggling to find a balance between the right of public access and the right to privacy. To date, there are no uniform rules.
One of the effects of having all this information easily available, with little or no cost, is the increase in identity theft. This growing crime now effects millions of US citizens. The use of another personís name, address, social security number, bank or credit card account number, or other identifying information without the other personís knowledge is fraud. Electronic records provide easy access to personal information, which fuels identity theft. The Internet makes it easier for criminals to obtain the data necessary to commit fraud and steal someoneís identity.
Our society needs a new set of open records laws to apply to our ever-advancing world and modern technology. What laws would you recommend? Please send your comments and thoughts to me at speakerscorner@.naltea.com.
Next month I will provide you with a list I have compiled for new laws on open records along with any comments I have received from the members of NALTEA.