|News for Public Officials|
The Lives of Three Citizens
As Told and Sold on the County Web site
David Bloys - News for Public Officials
News for Public Officials examined
online documents belonging to three Fort Bend County citizens. The
documents are typical of documents held in courthouses across the country and
increasingly displayed on counties websites.
The documents are the deeds, mortgages, and other records local citizens pay the
county to preserve and protect inside the courthouse.
We never visited the Fort
Bend County Courthouse
but instead used the convenient remote access the county clerk provides to
anyone with a connection to the internet. Here are three stories derived
from the 20 million or so stories provided by this one county site.
(Former US Congressman)
The information we
found on the Fort Bend County Clerkís site tells much more about Tom than any
legitimate news agency would ever publish. The site documents Tomís
security number, home address and gives us several examples of his signature. It
provides his wifeís full
name including her maiden name. We also found Tomís
maiden name, Tomís daughterís full name and that of her husband. If you havenít
guessed already, Tom is former Congressman Thomas Dale DeLay.
(Well known local businessman)
Joe is a very wellknown
businessman in Fort Bend County. We changed Joeís name to protect his security.
His real name and sensitive information is published on the Fort Bend County
Website. We found Joeís social security number, signature, and date of birth
along with the bank account and routing numbers for two checking accounts. The
financial information included a total of 21 accounts located in five cities.
Certificates of Deposit, Money Market and other accounts were found complete
with account numbers and authorized signatures.
(The Clerk's Own Mother-In-Law)
Everything we know
about Ellen, we learned from the Fort Bend County Site, but Fort Bend County
Clerk Diane Wilson knew her much better when she posted Ellen's information on
Ellen is Wilson's mother-in-law.
Ellen lived and
worked in Harris County most of her life and only moved to Fort Bend County to
be closer to her family. Ellen was born in 1917 and passed away a few years ago,
but before she died, Fort Bend County Clerk Dianne Wilson published
the most intimate details of her life over the Internet.
Itís still there.
Ellen retired from
Harris County on a $300Ėa-month
pension.. The site provides her membership number with the Texas County and District
Retirement System. Before retiring, Ellen invested wisely with Payne Webber
under two separate account numbers also provided by the county site. By the year
2000, Ellenís assets had grown to a little over a half million dollars. Ellenís
social security number and exact date of birth are included in the documents.
identify Ellenís daughter, son, one son-in-law, three granddaughters, one
grandson-in-law, a niece, a nephew and a son-in-law. Although Ellen was in
failing health, she gave each of them cash gifts every Christmas from a special
Ellen suffered from
cancer, dementia and Alzheimerís. She took Ticlopidine and Verapamil for heart
problems and Cipro for urinary tract infections. When she was constipated
she took Bisacodyl. The Fort Bend County Clerkís site provides her prescription
numbers and the contact information for her pharmacy, Lifechek # 1 in Rosenberg,
along with her Medicare number. Her doctors are listed for easy reference.
was Rosemary from Tomball, Texas. You can find Rosemaryís full name, phone, and
pager numbers on the county site. Her gardener was a young man by the name of
Johnny. Ellen was a consistent subscriber to the Houston Chronicle and enjoyed
cable television through the services of Warner Cable.
Tom, Joe, and Ellen all deserve better than to have their documented lives thrust onto the Internet where they can be strip-searched by strangers all over the world. This policy may be convenient for local government but it facilitates terrorists and data miners far outside the local jurisdiction.