Internet Provides Too Much Info?

By: Dana Arquilla
By: Dana Arquilla

If you want to find out something about someone, you need look no further than your county clerk of court's Web site.

The site provides all kinds of information from traffic tickets to marriage licenses, and criminal records to family issues, but the Florida Supreme Court is trying to decide if the clerk's office is giving out too much information, violating your privacy rights.

Harold Bazzel, Clerk of Circuit Court, says, "It's kind of a two edge sword. You want the ability to have access to public records, but at the same time we as citizens want that protection someone won't steal our identity, and when it's that readily available, that's probably what's gonna happen."

You'll begin seeing it happen on January 1 of 2007. After that date, Bay County and the rest of the state will have to delete certain information from any of the new official records filed online.

Deleting, or redacting as it is called, records already online is virtually impossible, so officials are proposing a case-by-case system.

"If someone knows that there's a document in the courts with information they don't want out there, you come into the clerk of court and tell us what it is; we'll take it out of there so that the public can't see it."

Some say they'll take advantage of a system like that to safeguard their personal information.

Bob Heifner, a project officer, says, "Issues involving family estates, family, personal family finances, that gives me cause for concern."

The Florida Supreme Court plans to hold more public hearings on the issue and make a final decision for the record.

A panel of judges, attorneys, law professors and court clerks have issued 24 recommendations aimed at placing court records online with safeguards to protect privacy rights.

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