If You Run a Red Light, Will Everyone Know?

nytimes.com/2008/08/03/technology/03essay.html?em

** If You Run a Red Light, Will Everyone Know?**

WANT to vet a baby sitter? Need to peek into the background of a prospective employee? Curious about the past of a potential date?

Last month, PeopleFinders, a 20-year-old company based in Sacramento, introduced CriminalSearches.com, a free service to satisfy those common impulses. The site, which is supported by ads, lets people search by name through criminal archives of all 50 states and 3,500 counties in the United States. In the process, it just might upset a sensitive social balance once preserved by the difficulty of obtaining public documents like criminal records.

Academics have a term for the old inaccessibility of records like those for criminal convictions: “practical obscurity.” Once upon a time, people in search of this data had to hire private investigators to navigate byzantine courthouses and rudimentary filing or computer systems, and to deal with often grim-faced legal clerks. In a way, the obstacles to getting criminal information maintained a valuable, ignorance-fueled civil peace. Convicts could start fresh after serving their time without strangers knowing their pasts, and there was little risk that unsophisticated researchers could confuse people with identical names.

According to Bryce Lane, president of PeopleFinders, the new site draws data directly from local courthouses and offers records of arrests and convictions in connection with everything from murder to minor infractions like blowing past a stop sign — at least for jurisdictions that include traffic violations in their criminal data. It also lets users view a map showing addresses and names of all those arrested or convicted of a crime in a specific neighborhood, and to place alerts that prompt e-mail when someone in their life gets busted or someone with a record moves in nearby.
“We are just trying to provide what’s already out there in an easier fashion, for free,” Mr. Lane said. “We think it’s pretty helpful to families.”

This business of “helping families” has gone way too far. Background checks for nannies babysitters? Absolutely. Background checks for hired people working in the home? Yes, please, with their consent. But this has gone enitrely overboard when one’s neighbour’s traffic offenses become public record, easily searchable on-line. Disgraceful.

Welcome to the post-Patriot Act America. Like it or not, our leaders have decided Big Brother had the right idea.

Without a major upheaval, I see little chance of changing that now.

You’re over reacting, note what’s said:

public documents like criminal records.

A criminal record, to include parking tickets are not a “private matter” but matters of public record.

This isn’t “Big Brother” this is “The Communication Age.”

[quote=Yerusalyim]A criminal record, to include parking tickets are not a “private matter” but matters of public record.

This isn’t “Big Brother” this is “The Communication Age.”
[/quote]

nods yep. Just because the public has access to public records more easily now than before doesn’t change the fact that it’s public records. There’d be a problem if these public records were not available. Since they are; no problem.

p.s. the site isn’t that good. I put in names of 2 different people that I know have criminal records and the searches came up empty.

Nothing to do with the Patriot Act; this is just public records made more available.

Right now, I can put my phone number into Google, which will produce my home address, a map, a satellite image, and a ground level image of the street.

There are lots and lots of public records out there; it’s just a matter of making them truly public.

When I was in the USAF, the locations of missile silos was not public knowledge. Now I can pinpoint each of them on a web map or satellite image, from my home pc.

I can hardly wait till Google starts contracting with business owners to start running real time imagery from their security cameras.

(And of course, everything we post on these forums will be available to internet searches.)

As a Deputy Sheriff, I’d like to point out that it’s far safer and far better for the public when the courts are open to the public and public records are open to the public.

When things start getting hidden and you can’t see what’s going on in the court system that can punish not just other people but you, then be very, very afraid.

Keep open records. There are people in my line of work and in the courts who need to be kept honest. Very unfortunate, but very true.

Nothing to do with the Patriot Act; this is just public records made more available.

It’s the new order. You don’t have a right to privacy any more. The president ordered it, and the Congress allowed it.

The government should be kept from seeing what we are doing, and we should always be able to see what the government is doing.

And now it’s been reversed. An important milestone, for those who think the government knows what’s best for us.

Barbarian,

Easy claim to make, hard to prove. What privacy rights have you given up?

Again, this is talking about PUBLIC DOCUMENTS…documents that have ALWAYS been available to the public. The only thing that’s changed is that the INFORMATION AGE has made it easier to access the ALREADY PUBLICALLY AVAILABLE documents.

Easy claim to make, hard to prove. What privacy rights have you given up?

The law now allows warrantless searches of library and bookstore records of citizen’s reading habits. It further requires that the people turning over the records not inform the citizen that his privacy has been invaded.

Fortunately, most libraries and bookstores have simply removed all such records. But some haven’t.

The Bush Administration now claims that it has been given the right to declare any American citizen an enemy combatant and to arrest and hold that American without access to a lawyer or even admitting that he was held. In Cuba, that is called “disappearing”, and it was a common practice in earlier years before Castro loosened up a little.

You may have noticed that while Bush assured Americans that he would not permit wiretapping without a warrant, he had ordered exactly that before he promised he would not do it. Incidentally, in the untold millions of telephone conversations illegally intruded upon, there are surely many which might involve criminal cases, and these cases might be tainted by such illegal snooping.

The next president will have a lot of cleaning up to do. And Congress needs some backbone; the democrats agreed to give a pardon to the telephone companies who took part in those felonies.

They’re saving up backbone for doing atrocious things like taking down the DOMA.

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