Sunday, August 27, 2006

Online records in the news again

The Miami Herald's Monica Hatcher writes: Public records are easy targets for ID thieves, discussing the availabilty of some Social Security numbers in online records files like mortgages in Florida clerk of court documents.
The Florida Legislature, which mandated that clerks put records online several years ago, now is pushing for them to remove all private identification details from those records. It's a huge task and the legislature has had to move its deadline for clerks to comply.

Much of this is due to the campaign by a Virginia privacy advocate:
'The government down there is spoon-feeding criminals all over this world,'' said Betty Ostergren, a Virginia-based privacy advocate who has brought national attention to the security threat posed by online records. ``What they should have done was make the clerks and recorders close down the websites until they finished redaction.''

Ostergren has been pushing Florida for quite awhile now, emailing me a while back to tell me some details about me that she found online.

I'm more concerned about publicizing this information than the fact it's there, as I told Ostergren at the time. These records are amazingly useful tools for investigators, researchers, and journalists, and for that reason I dread the loss of them. Doing journalistic research in Florida was a dream, once. Not so much any more.

Some days it just seems that the Sunshine is going out.


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