News for Public Officials and the People They Serve

Online Records Could Become Less Reliable

by Robert Franco

Reprinted with permission - Oct-26-07

Can you imagine trying to search a title when only the property owner's initials appear in the online index? According to an article on CantonRep.com, Ohio Senate Bill 6, if passed would require county auditors and recorders to replace names with initials for a property owner who is a police officer, prosecutor, prison employee, youth services employee, firefighter or emergency medical technician. The requirement applies to online records, not the paper version kept by those offices. Those covered by the bill must make a request to the auditor or recorder to make the change.

Not surprisingly, the Ohio Newspaper Association opposes the bill.

“We are opposed to how that group of public employees has increased over the years,” said Frank Deaner, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association. “For the first time, there will be a special group of employees that gets special terms that no one else gets. It continues down a slippery slope. It’s time for legislation that says enough is enough.”

They have a point, but I think it is the wrong one. Rather than providing for a "special group" to get special terms that no one else gets, the Ohio legislators should be providing this protection to all of their constituents. There are certainly unique concerns that this special group faces which makes the bill a good idea. However, there are other groups that are not so easily classified that may have the same need for protection. For example, battered women may have a special need for excluding their information from public availability.

Why should any of us have our information published world-wide on the Internet? Publication on the Internet is not necessary for maintaining records of home ownership and the public should not be subjected to the potential hazards of identity theft just because they own real property. It may be more convenient for some to have access to the records online, but it subjects millions of people to unnecessary risk.

While this bill may be step in the right direction - at least it shows that they realize there are risks of such publication - it falls short of providing meaningful protection to the masses. The bill fails to address the issue of the records that are purchased in bulk to third parties. If private data-aggregating companies are allowed to continue to operate without being subjected to these new regulations, what is the point?

Government still fails to recognize the unique characteristic of the Internet that prevents it from being effectively regulated once the information is sold to third-parties. This seems to be a huge loophole in S.B. 6.

 

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About the author:

Robert A. Franco has been in the title industry for nearly 15 years in the state of Ohio. The owner of VersaTitle, a full service abstracting and title company, and the founder and president of Source of Title, a Web site devoted to providing media and marketing services to the title industry, Franco has dedicated much of his professional career to furthering the role and significance of title examiners in the title insurance industry... About Robert A Franco

 

Robert can be reached at  rfranco@sourceoftitle.com  or visit his Blog at http://www.sourceoftitle.com/

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