Monday, May 15, 2006

Public records, law and technology

An interesting story in the Utica O-D recently concerned the idea of getting public records online while still protecting personal information.

In general, I've found that New York lags in making all sorts of records easily available. I recently had to find some information from a county in Ohio, and was very pleased to find the public records were accessible over the internet. I could not only look up when an action was filed, but obtain free pdf copies of all the major documents in the case. Meanwhile, here in Jamestown I keep a running list of tasks to do in Mayville until the day finally comes when it's worth the drive. Or some days I end up spending an hour in the car just for ten minutes at a computer terminal looking up a property record. It's a complete waste of time, and the county clerks, in my opinion, ought to be more concerned with getting records online than deciding who to blame when someone's social security number is improperly disclosed.

(Thanks for Joel at Small Town Lawyer for the original link. All editorial content is my own ranting.)

6 Comments:

Anonymous Joel Seachrist said...

Todd, in my opinion, privacy is not the real source of the reticence here, it's just entrenched bureaucrats unwilling to embrace a new technology, and, perhaps, to take on some of the extra work it will entail for them (no matter that it will make information vastly more accessible for everyone else.) Privacy is just a convenient excuse. This is the equivalent of the business office in the 1930's refusing to install a telephone: technology- and the world- has overswept it but rather than embrace the change it digs in its heels. Unlike on that business, however, there is no competitive pressure for government to adapt to the new environment, and so now a full 10 years after the WWW became widespread you and I still find ourselves trekking to Mayville just to get a copy of a three-page deed. Crazy.

6:11 PM  
Blogger TMT said...

Good points. I think one of the issues in NY tends to be the stereotypical demographic of the County Clerk...it's not a position that attracts movers and shakers, for the most part, with an interest in revitalizing government.

8:43 PM  
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