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 Worldwide Web. Here are three stories derived from the 20 million or so stories provided by this one county site.
Tomís Story (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 social 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 wifeís mothers maiden name, Tomís daughterís full name and that of her husband. If you havenít guessed already, Tom is former Congressman Thomas Dale DeLay.
Joeís Story (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.
Ellenís Story (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 the website.
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 published the most intimate details of her life over the Internet. Itís still there.
Ellen retired from the 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.
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 bank account.
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.
Ellenís hairdresser 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.