"The Making of a Public Records Researcher"

This most helpful article was written by Genie Tyburski of The Virtual Chase:

"What constitutes public record, public information and private information sometimes is as clear as mud. (For a discussion of the differences, see The Art of Public Records Research.) [link in article] In a recent e-mail exchange concerning a proposal for a distant education course for journalism students on public records research, one professor expressed concern that students wouldn't have access to commercial databases containing personal information. She also commented that drivers' records 'are available to private investigators, but not to reporters.' How, then, should the faculty handle the instruction of the use of such records in journalism research?

"In a nutshell, students and journalists don't have full access to commercial personal information aggregators because the vendors forbid it. Arguably, these groups would not have a permissible use for the data protected by two major privacy laws – the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the Drivers' Privacy Protection Act. But, just because journalists don't have access to private or sensitive information through these research systems, doesn't mean they can't find what they seek – legally."

Originally published in The CyberSkeptic's Guide to Internet Research (February 2006).

"ABA Raises Fresh Concerns Regarding Domestic Surveillance"

Nice to hear from the ABA about this important issue:

"May 9, 2006 -- American Bar Association President Michael S. Greco today called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to carry out 'a thorough inquiry into the nature and extent of the warrantless domestic surveillance conducted by the administration,' and called any legislative action 'premature' until such an inquiry has taken place.

"In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Greco emphasized the association’s deep concern about possible constitutional violations contained in various legislative proposals, and the danger of proceeding before those and other key questions about the nature and scope of the surveillance program are finally answered by the administration.

“'Like all our fellow citizens, the members of the American Bar Association want the government to have the powers it needs to effectively combat terrorists,' Greco wrote. 'However, we are deeply concerned about the electronic surveillance of Americans without the express authorization of the Congress and the independent oversight of the courts.'"

"States rush to remove data on residents from websites"

Well, this is good news for protecting privacy:

"States across the USA are furiously removing sensitive data from official websites.

"The task highlights challenges facing states with sites full of personal information on residents, from Social Security numbers to bank account numbers.

"Such data is available in Florida, Ohio and at least a dozen others, say privacy experts who provided USA TODAY with links to public websites. Many state laws require property records be posted online in the interest of open government.

"Once, the data was confined to books in state offices, says Daniel Solove, a privacy law professor at George Washington University. 'As data is made available online, it becomes a privacy concern,' he says."