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William Pattison 's Blog

Privacy vs. the Public Record
by William Pattison | 2014/05/30 |

  Property owners, voters and taxpayers frequent the Reorders Office and often express a sentiment that laments their lack of privacy.  This occurs when they access the various digital records at said facilities and realize the wide range and scope of information about them that anyone can view.  Birth certificates, marriage data, voting histories, business filings, property taxes, home ownership and house assessments are all available at the touch of the finger.

William Pattison 's Blog ::

  People typically rail about how difficult it is to understand the search functions and data organization:  it's too hard to find or it's too esoteric to read. They quickly move to complaining about how much data the government collects and offers freely.  How's that for having your cake and eating it too?

  As a people, Americans long for a bygone, simpler way of life that harkens back  to our roots in a rugged frontier while simultaneously clinging to a civil ad affluent lifestyle afforded us by technology and economic power.

  As a matter of perspective we can look by contrast ad comparison to other systems and see that ours occupies a middle ground  between extremes.  Firstly the old Soviet system gathered reans of data for mass social oppression with secret files and Orwellian star chambers.  On another extreme is nomadic cultures like the Kalahari Bushmen who own no property, keep no records, ass on culture through generations of inherited lore, and sleep soundly under a canopy of stars.

  The civil codes and civil statutes passed by elected officials which establish these records offices all contribute to the grand works of building and maintaining a vast Western Civilization.  This amazing mass of people who have worked together for centuries have conquered disease, built cities and visited toe Moon.   They stand at the brink of defeating aging, restoring extinct species to life and creating self-aware machines.  

   So, what is a reasonable ratio if any, by which we sacrifice some privacy for a better future?


470 words | 1909 views | 3 comments | log in or register to post a comment

I tend to lean toward sacrificing some privacy to achieve certain societal goals

I think that we have the technology now to effectively combat some pretty major societal problems with relatively minor concessions of privacy.  I approve deployment of surveillance cameras in public areas to combat crime, for example.  It's not a major intrusion in our lives and yet helps catch criminals and deter crime. Look at how cameras were used to identify the Boston Marathon bombers.  Someday, I will approve of some sort of National ID system, when they work out the kinks.

by Slade Smith | 2014/06/02 | log in or register to post a reply

Supreme Court redaction of kind records
As the counsel for the Bergen County Clerk, New Jersey, I litigated the matter of Burnett v. Bergen County, 198 NJ 408 (2009) to the NJ Supreme Court on the issue of protection of personal information in land title records sought under a records act request. The court ordered redaction at the cost of the requester fearing identity theft. The New Jersey Supreme Court upheld the lower courts’ rulings that a New Jersey resident has an expectation of privacy under OPRA in that his/her personal information, namely Social Security Numbers (“SSNs”), found in certain public records will be protected. Public records containing personal information that are requested for release under OPRA can be released if the personal information is first redacted. The requestor must pay for the redaction. The analysis of virtual obscurity in a digital world was a first. Regards, John M Carbone, Esq. Ridgewood, NJ 
by jack carbone | 2014/06/02 | log in or register to post a reply

This May Come As A Surprise, But
I agree with you on the issue of surveillance cameras, Slade.  There's no expectation of privacy in a public area, and the camera is no different than someone standing on the street corner who witnesses a crime in progress.

Regarding the issue of public records, I think there should be some kind of practical barrier in place to make accessing public records just a bit inconvenient.  It tends to weed out a certain percentage of the criminal element.  What's interesting to note about online public records is that in some jurisdictions, certain prominent members of the community such as judges and elected officials have the option of having their names redacted from the online version of the indices.  I say what's good enough for them should be good enough for the rest of the populace.
by Scott Perry | 2014/06/04 | log in or register to post a reply
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