Online Court Records Causing Problems

from the getting-rid-of-practical-obscurity-not-such-a-good-thing- dept

Court records are public documents. However, it’s not likely your neighbor is going to go look up how many speeding tickets you’ve received, or if you were once arrested for hitting your spouse. That takes a little too much effort… unless all that data is on the web (NY Times, registration blah blah). The county court clerk in Cinicinnatti thought it would be a good idea to put the court records online. They are public documents, after all, and they were already scanned into a digital format. It seemed like a no brainer, until everyone realized what sort of info was being shared – and everyone started spying on everyone else.

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Comments on “Online Court Records Causing Problems”

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Anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

So people are upset that public information is accessable by the public?

A criminal record is a matter of public record, and the public has the right to see that justice is being done.

There is no law saying that public records can be effectively hidden behind ineffective document management, which is what the web replaces.

Steve Snyder says:

Public records=easily accessible

I agree with the other poster. If something is deemed a public record, then it should be easily accessible to anyone who wants to see it. Claiming that something is public record and then making the public file paperwork, pay a fee, and wait weeks or months is wrong.
Now this realization may make us rethink what should be classified as public records, and I am all in favor of that–careful consideration and public debate should take place for these decisions, but once we decide it’s a public document, anyone should have easy access.
I’m not sure how I feel about requiring ID and tracking who accesses certain documents. I can see a decent security/public saftey argument being made. Maybe the best solution is to require some sort of identification (and IP tracking and that too) but require it to be sealed and only accessible with a valid search warrant. That way both the public safety and individual privacy are preserved.
steve snyder

DT says:

A non-issue

Why is this an issue? As the other posters mention, public records are free to anyone who walks into the court house to see them. No ID required, nothing. Why any sort of special identification or tracking process should take place for online access is beyond me. To modify Scheier’s axiom, I guess the objectors believe in privacy by obscurity?

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