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.