Archive for the ‘Massachusetts’ Category
The Massachusetts Supreme Court is proposing new procedures that, if adopted, would curtail the available personal information in all court files. The court is accepting public comments on its Interim Guidelines for the Protection of Personal Identifying Data in Publicly Accessible Court Documents.
The document proposes redaction of particular personally identifying information in court filings.
Except as provided in these guidelines, a document filed with a court should not include a complete version of any of the following personal identifying data elements. Instead, the filer should redact information from any pre-existing document, or omit information from any document prepared for filing, so that the document includes:
(1) in the case of a social security number, taxpayer identification number, credit card or other financial account number, driver’s license number, or passport number, only the last four digits;
(2) in the case of a birth date, only the year of birth, rather than the exact day or month; and
(3) in the case of a name identified as the mother’s maiden name of a person, only the first initial of that name.
The Pennsylvania Treasury Department has launched a database of state government agency goods and services contracts. Search by any combination of contractor, contracting agency, contract amount or date range. This primarily includes contracts entered into or renewed on or after July 1, 2008. See the FAQ’s for database parameters.
The University of New Mexico is revising its policies on access to public records and disclosure of personal information. One of the additions to the list of public record information on University employees is job application, resume or curriculum vitae. The policy changes will be voted on at the August 2008 UNM Board of Regents meeting.
Some states, counties and towns list current registered voters on a Web site. But you might also look for databases and PDF files that voter registrars and town clerks compile of formerly registered voters. States and local agencies variously refer to these non current registered voters lists as purged, inactive or excluded. Use advanced search operators at a search engine to search by different phrases, file types and site domains to identify inactive voters lists. Here are a few I found.
Darien, Connecticut roll of inactive voters.
Voter Purge List, Madison County, Alabama residents.
City of St. Louis Inactive Voters List.
Knox County, Tennessee Purged Inactive Voters is available as of 2005.
Inactive Voter Status – Barnstable, Massachusetts
And, just to remind us that easy come, easy go…In 2000, People for the American Way published a Central Voter File Exclusions List of registered voters Florida planned to purge from the rolls as purported felons. The list was never used and People for the American Way has since removed it from their server.
Town registrars in Massachusetts publish an annual “street list” of local resident names, dates of birth, occupations, veteran status and nationality, which has been a public record. A state Senate bill would change that status, from one of a public record, to one that is only available for federal, state and local governmental use. [Story: Public listings could go private, Matt Murphy, Eagle Boston Bureau]
The common practice of treating search warrants as public records comports with the law, according to an Opinion issued by the Illinois Attorney General. Once the warrants have been returned to the court they are part of the court record and must be available for public inspection.The Sangamon County State’s Attorney backed the Circuit Clerk, who was apparently one of the few court clerks denying the public access to the executed search warrants. As one of this story’s commentators noted, “at some point they have to be made public because it is the public’s dollars which finance them. Making it clear that every search warrant will eventually become public keeps those issuing them honest. We do want judges issuing them and police seeking them kept honest don’t we?”
A Washington State school district narrowly won support from the state Supreme Court in a decision that pitted the Public Records Act against attorney-client privilege for government agencies. Perhaps most damaging to open government, noted in the Justices’ dissent, is the aspect of the ruling allows agencies to seek a judicial determination as to whether a requested public record must be disclosed.
A law firm that accessed and viewed archived Web pages of an adversary through Archive.org did not violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act , even though those Web pages were not supposed to be available, an Eastern District of Pennsylvania judge ruled. Federal Judge Clears Law Firm Accused of Hacking Opponents’ Web Archives, New Jersey Law Journal, July 24, 2007
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that documents covered by attorney-client privilege are not public records. Work-product may still be covered by the public records law. Attorney-Client Privilege and Public Records Access, Massachusetts Law Updates, July 23, 2007.
Personal emails on government computers may be a public record, which should be determined by a court, in a ruling of the Supreme Court of Arkansas. The determination may rest in whether the non work related computer activity “should be carried out by a public official or employee.” Personal e-mail on public computers not always public, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, July 23, 2007.
The online versions of mainstream newspapers continue to distinguish themselves by collecting public records, then making them searchable in a database. I mentioned two sites in a posting last week – DataUniverse (New Jersey) and DataCentral (Iowa). The Boston Herald is doing its part to sunshine the workings of the Massachusetts state government in a database identified as the 2007 State Employee Payroll. This database is unique in collecting public records from the government and making them easily accessible to the public, in a form not otherwise available. Search by partial last name or agency, or combine the two. A search identifies the department, the employee’s name, the job description, weekly hours and annual rate of pay. [Via Media Nation]
The Tennessee Leaf-Chronicle isn’t giving us a unique database but it is linking to some of the public records online databases at the government Web sites.
The Honolulu Advertiser’s Boating Safety Searchable Database is drawn from Coast Guard accident reports. Not all states are included and the site has few details on the extent of the data and the compiling process. Some document images of accident reports are here. The newspaper also has links to selective public records databases hosted at government sites.
Search high school graduates, government salaried employees and high school athletes for selective counties and municipalities in Kentucky and Indiana, at the Courier-Journal DataCenter. Plot property transfers in Jefferson County, Kentucky on a map. Search by street or zip code and sort by date, address or sales price.
Death Notices, building permits and smoking complaints are among the databases collected at this Cincinnati, Ohio paper.
Search Indiana state employee salaries by name and the Indiana Attorney General consumer litigation by company name. Indiana State Police speeding violations are searchable by name or location for the past 6 months.
The Des Moines Register has a variety of types of personal information databases that it has assembled from Iowa state government records. Court fines and business executive salaries are available statewide. Vital records indexes, property transfers, high school graduates and bankruptcies for Polk County can be searched by partial name. Records are indexed for 2007 only.
The privacy advocates are on the warpath to close access to online images of UCC filings, state by state. Last week the Arizona Secretary of State removed the Uniform Commercial Code filing documents from the Web site after a privacy fanatic apparently claimed that the site was a place that criminals trolled for Social Security numbers. Is there any proof for this?
Although new UCC financing statements in Massachusetts have the Social Security numbers removed from online documents there is pressure, which the Secretary of State has so far resisted, to take down the site completely.
This is an issue that has pitted the interests of consumer lobbyists against those who might otherwise be allies: the champions of open government. Public records that are accessible to all, free, and unaltered by the government are under threat by regulation, statute and public hysteria over a misplaced fear of identity theft. Surely there is a way we can keep these records available on the Internet for legitimate business and research purposes without aggravating the problem of identity theft. What do you think? Are public records a serious, documented contributor to identity fraud?